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OSAKA — Refined activated charcoal has been found to be able to absorb the O-157 strain of E. coli bacteria and its toxin that causes food-poisoning, according to a joint research team from the University of Osaka Prefecture and Okayama University.

Researchers from the agriculture department at the University of Osaka Prefecture and the department of medicine at Okayama University confirmed that medical carbon, which is made of refined activated charcoal, absorbs the bacteria and the toxin it secretes.

“The research will contribute to the development of treatment for the bacteria without using antibiotic drugs, which can cause severer symptoms for the bacteria,” said Shinobu Watarai, who led the research.

“Medical carbon is not expected to have severe side effects, as it is already on the market as certified medicine.”

The research team mixed various amounts of medical carbon, ranging from 1 to 10 mg, with some 10 million cultivated E. coli bacteria in test tubes.

The carbon absorbed various amounts of bacteria in all of the test tubes, depending on the amount of carbon present. A test tube containing 10 mg of the substance absorbed all the bacteria.

However, the carbon absorbed only small amounts of indigenous types of bacteria, including lactic acid bacteria and Bifidobacterium.

The researchers plan to give medical carbon to livestock and humans. The carbon is expected to be excreted through urine when used to absorb E. coli bacteria in the intestines of humans and animals, the researchers said.

An E. coli O-157 poisoning epidemic in Japan claimed 12 lives and made more than 10,000 people ill in 1996, with the city of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, hit hardest.

The researchers will announce the results of their study Sunday at a conference of the Japanese Society of Veterinary Science, to open Saturday in Sakai.

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