is a Gram-negative, facultatively anaerobic, rod-shaped bacterium of the genus Escherichia
that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. Most E. coli
strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in their hosts, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls due to food contamination. The harmless strains are part of the normal flora of the gut, and can benefit their hosts by producing vitamin K2, and preventing colonization of the intestine with pathogenic bacteria. E. coli
and other facultative anaerobes constitute about 0.1% of gut flora, and fecal–oral transmission is the major route through which pathogenic strains of the bacterium cause disease. Cells are able to survive outside the body for a limited amount of time, which makes them ideal indicator organisms to test environmental samples for fecal contamination. There is, however, a growing body of research that has examined environmentally persistent E. coli
which can survive for extended periods outside of the host.