Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), especially of serotype O157:H7, cause a zoonotic food or waterborne enteric illness that is often associated with large epidemic outbreaks as well as the hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the leading cause of acute renal failure in children. After ingestion, STEC colonize enterocytes of the large bowel with a characteristic attaching and effacing pathology, which is mediated by components of a type III secretion apparatus encoded by the LEE pathogenicity island. Shiga toxins are translocated from the bowel to the circularoty system and transported by leukocytes to capillary endothelial cells in renal glomeruli and other organs. After binding to the receptor globotriaosylceramide on target cells, the toxin is internalized by receptor-mediated endocytosis and interacts with the subcellular machinery to inhibit protein synthesis. This leads to pathophysiological changes that result in HUS. Specific therapeutic or preventive strategies are presently not available. The recent sequencing of genomes of two epidemic E. coli O157 strains has revealed novel pathogenicity islands which will likely provide new insights into the virulence of these bacteria.