Even if E. coli vaccines do come into wide use, researchers caution that it will not be a "silver bullet" that entirely eliminates the dangers of E. coli and its effects which, in extreme cases, can lead to kidney failure and even death.
Contracting the bacteria typically comes from ingesting contaminated food or water.
Because E. coli lives and thrives in the intestines, it enters the environment through fecal matter like cow manure. Meat can be contaminated when it comes into contact with even microscopic amounts of that manure. Just 10 E. coli bacteria are enough to make a person sick
Under the right conditions it can survive for months, but extreme heat and cold, or even direct sunlight is enough to kill it. Cooking meat to the recommended temperature also kills the bacteria, but for people who enjoy rare beef undercooking is common.
"I think we've given up on the concept that we're going to cook our meat to 165 degrees," said Dan Thomson, a veterinary epidemiologist at Kansas State University. "If people would wash their hands, not contaminate raw meat with other food, and cook it to the proper temperature, this would be a non-issue."
ABCNews.com contributor Charlie Litton is a member of the ABC News on Campus bureau in Lincoln, Neb.