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E coli strain and heart attacks linked

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People who catch the most dangerous strain of E coli could be twice as likely to suffer from high blood pressure and heart problems later in life, latest research suggests.

Nearly 2,000 people who fell ill during an outbreak of E coli O157 were used as part of a Canadian study, which found that the heart attack risk doubled in the group.

Researchers have recommended annual health checks, even for patients who have apparently fully recovered from the strain, which can cause gastroenteritis.

A million cases of food poisoning are estimated to take place in the UK each year, but the O157 strain is regarded as one of the most dangerous. Contact with just small numbers of the bacteria, carried in animal faeces, is enough to make you ill.

Around 1,000 cases are officially recorded in the UK each year. There is evidence to suggest that kidney problems can occur in a small number of people who have suffered from the strain, but other than this, there has been little investigation into long-term complications.

The research team, based in Victoria Hospital, London Ontario, followed up people affected when the municipal water system in Walkerton became contaminated in May 2000.

Seven people died and thousands fell ill - and while some were only mildly affected, many had significant symptoms, including severe diarrhoea.

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