E. coli evade detection by going dormant

When stressed, bacteria can temporarily turn comatose and dodge germ-screening tests

By Janet Raloff, 10:05 AM December 6, 2011

Researchers think they now know why a particularly virulent form of E. coli that swept through northern Germany last May was so hard to trace: The germs responsible eluded detection by going into a self-induced deep sleep.

Two new studies show that when stressed, E. coli can turn off most signs of life. That’s a problem for food-safety officials because their germ-screening techniques rely on germs reproducing to establish the presence of live bacteria.

Microbiologists look for life by a...

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