What makes E. coli kill?
Comparison with harmless sister strain provides clues
Very small lab rats
There's more known about Escherichia coli than about any other organism on earth. Much of what we understand about the molecular basis of life we first understood in E. coli, through the efforts of thousands of molecular biologists who applied their efforts towards the bacterium.
...and in so doing, routinely breathed in and ate E. coli microdroplets! Since the flower of molecular biology has not fallen over dead, it seems that the laboratory strain, E. coli K12 is pretty harmless. In fact, over time it has lost the ability to survive in humans, much less infect them. For many things, K12 is the perfect laboratory microbe!
But wait a second! Doesn't E. coli kill people?
Picture courtesy of
Kent State University Microbiology