Universal masking is required at LHSC facilities. View our current COVID-19 measures.

November 02, 2001

Debbie Neufert
Media Relations, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 74772

LHSC Research Team Awarded $5 Million for Landmark Study into E.coli Outbreak in Walkerton

(LONDON, Ontario) - A team of doctors at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has been chosen by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) to conduct a study on the long-term health effects of people who became ill from the E.coli contaminated water in Walkerton, Ontario in May 2000. The ministry has given the LHSC doctors $5 million for the seven-year study which is the first of its kind in the world.

This study will provide evidence-based, peer reviewed data that has never been established. Dr. William Clark, LHSC Nephrologist, says, "Until now, a long term study has never been done anywhere on an entire population infected with E.coli, at the same time, from the same source, living in the same area, right from the onset of infection."

Dr. Clark adds, "We already know that one of the potential, long-term health effects of E.coli is kidney disease. This study is a tremendous opportunity for early identification, intervention and prevention of kidney complications."

Part of the study includes establishing a health clinic in Walkerton which will allow residents to receive as much care as possible in their own community. At the clinic, residents who want to participate in the study will fill out a survey to help define the population that has been affected by E.coli. They will then go through an active screening process each year over the next seven years. The annual active screening process is key to identifying who potentially is at risk of long-term illness from E.coli, and to track their progress.

Most members of the LHSC research team are the same people who worked around the clock to care for the critically ill children and adults during the Walkerton crisis.

Dr. Doug Matsell, Director of Pediatric Nephrology at The Children's Hospital of Western Ontario (CHWO) at LHSC, says, "LHSC and the Children's Hospital have been there for the people of Walkerton right from the start. As a result, we already have a connection with many families from Walkerton. It's a privilege to be able to continue to care for the residents and monitor their health over the next seven years."

Throughout the study, the LHSC team will work closely with the Walkerton community and physicians, and will also hold several Town Hall meetings, the first of which is expected to take place later this month.

The LHSC research team consists of Dr. William Clark, LHSC Nephrologist, Dr. Doug Matsell, Director of Pediatric Nephrology at the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario at LHSC, Dr. John Howard, LHSC Gastroenterologist, Dr. Marina Salvadori, Pediatrician and Infectious Diseases Specialist at the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario at LHSC, and Dr. Amit Garg, Epidemiologist and Nephrologist.

Background Information

  • May 2000 - The municipal water of the community of Walkerton, Ontario became contaminated with E.coli O157:H7

  • 2,300 people, both children and adults, became ill due to E.coli infection.

  • 7 people died as a result of the infection, 1 child, 6 adults.

  • About 30 children were admitted to London Health Sciences Centre with gastrointestinal illness and kidney failure.

  • 28 confirmed cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS occurs when toxins from E.coli damage the blood vessels in the kidney, gastrointestinal tract, and in some cases the brain. The result is kidney failure, gastrointestinal complications, and neurological effects.

  • There have been 4 outbreaks of E.coli in Ontario in the last 20 years. They took place in Sarnia, Orillia, London, and the most recent in Walkerton.