The two faces of E. coli: my article in Newsweek and interview with the BBC

By Carl Zimmer | June 6, 2011 9:30 am

On Friday, as the E. coli outbreak gained horrific speed in Germany, Newsweek asked me to write about how this epidemic came to be. Scientists still have a lot to figure out about it, but some things are clear–in particular, that the bacteria have great scope for evolution into new deadly strains, thanks in part to the shuttling of viruses between them. (In my book Microcosm, I explain how this is true not just for E. coli, but for much of life.) My piece appears in the new issue of Newsweek, which you can read online here. (One late-breaking piece of news that didn’t make it in, by the way, is the finding yesterday that the new outbreak appears to have come from bean sprouts.)

While I was working on my Newsweek piece, a reporter for the BBC called me up for an article on the good side of E. coli. I explained how much of how we understand about life itself came out of research on this typically harmless bug, and that the biotechnology industry was build upon its biology. That piece came out over the weekend. Check it out.

[Image: glass microbe by Luke Jerram]


Comments (3)

  1. Georg

    There is a lot of supervision of personal health working in food processing business in Germany (as everywhere I think): restaurants, bakeries, butchers etc. This sprouts came from a “Bio Farm”, this kind of business was protected from supervision by Green Party influence :=( (till now.) You know: Bio is good, industry is evil…

  2. Wilson

    Later-breaking news:

    E. coli outbreak in Europe not from sprouts: initial tests
    German officials announced Monday that initial tests show sprouts from an organic farm in the country’s north are not the cause of the E. coli outbreak as first suspected.

  3. Bill

    Speaking of viruses, looking forward to your talk at Long Now.

    It should be on in a few weeks.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


See More

Collapse bottom bar