Scientists will ask if Scotland is at risk to a more vicious strain of E.coli
Scotland could be at risk to a more vicious strain of the potentially deadly E.coli 0157 bug than anywhere else in the world, it has been claimed.
Scientists will investigate this theory at a four-day conference in Aberdeen.
They will also ask if lessons have been learned since the worst recorded outbreak of the bug in Lanarkshire in 1996 which saw 21 elderly people die.
The event comes just days after several confirmed cases of E.coli in Auchinclech, Aberdeenshire.
The outbreak has been traced to a private water supply shared by eight houses.
A spokesman for NHS Grampian said none of the cases was giving cause for concern.
E.coli is found in the intestines of people and cattle and can be passed by eating infected food and liquid.
Professor Hugh Pennington, the main speaker at the Food Micro 2008 event at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, said there was evidence emerging from studies in the US that some strains of the bug were more vicious than others, and this could help to explain the higher incidence of E.coli in Scotland.
Professor Pennington is currently chair of a public inquiry into a 2005 outbreak of the bug in Wales, which killed a five-year-old and left 150 others, mainly school children, ill.
Professor Hugh Pennington will be speaking at the Aberdeen conference
He said: "It may be that there is a strain in this country that is better at getting about and when it does infect people, causes more mischief.
"It would be nice to know a bit more about this bug, but maybe we never will.
"But we want to continue to look into it because at the moment once someone is infected there is not much we can do to prevent complications, and it would be nice to change that."
The 850 delegates from 50 countries will also hear of research from the University of Aberdeen that E.coli infections in humans are more likely to have come from cattle than from sheep.