E. Coli Infection In Humans

E. coli Infection In Humans

What Is an intestinal tract Infection due to E. Coli? E. coli is a type of bacteria that normally reside in the intestines of people and animals. However, some types of E. coli, especially E. coli 0157: H7, can cause intestinal tract infection.

General Information

Symptoms of intestinal tract infection consist of diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. More severe cases can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and even kidney failure. Individuals with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, children, and older grownups are at increased risk for establishing these issues.

The majority of intestinal tract infections are brought on by infected food or water. Correct cooking and good health can significantly decrease your opportunities of developing a digestive infection.

The majority of cases of intestinal tract E. coli infection can be treated in the house. Symptoms usually resolve within a couple of days to a week.

Where does E. coli come from in the human body and what are its dangers?

Information verified by the iythealth.com team.

Escherichia coli, Escherichia coli, is a mostly harmless bacteria that is part of the physiological intestinal flora of humans and animals. Unfortunately, some types of bacteria are capable of causing disease.

These are usually gastrointestinal infections, manifested as diarrhea, urinary tract infections or meningitis. Under favorable conditions, E. coli can cause infections of other organs, including the bile ducts or respiratory system.

It is also the most common etiologic factor in nosocomial infections. Escherichia coli often affects people with severe comorbidities, including diabetes mellitus, alcoholism, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Escherichia coli is also a marker of drinking water contamination by detecting so-called Escherichia coli titers. Strains that cause diarrhea are transmitted through contaminated water, food, or through direct contact with infected people or animals. Escherichia coli is also the most common etiologic factor in traveler’s diarrhea.

Pathogenic Escherichia coli

Among the strains of Escherichia coli the following have been identified: pathogenic E. coli, which can cause severe infections:

  • Entero Escherichia coli (Enterohemorrhagic E. coli – EHEC). Otherwise: Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) or werocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC). The best-known and most common bacterium in this group is Escherichia coli O157: H7. Enterohaemorrhagic strains of Escherichia coli are found in the digestive tract of ruminants (cattle, goats, sheep, deer, elk), pigs and birds. All of them can spread the bacteria. The most common sources of human infection are cattle, consumption of contaminated water, raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk or dairy products, direct contact with animals or feces of sick people, such as when changing diapers.
  • Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). Is the leading cause of traveler’s diarrhea. Produces an enterotoxin that affects mucosal cells of the small intestine, causing large quantities of water to be released into the intestinal lumen.
  • Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) A common etiological agent of diarrhea in children.
  • Enteroagregacyjna Escherichia coli (Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli – EAggEC). Causes chronic diarrhea in children in developing countries. It is also an etiologic factor in 30% of traveler’s diarrhea cases. In 2011, a mutant of this strain, capable of producing the shiga toxin O104: H4, caused an epidemic in Germany. Twenty-two percent of those infected developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. The source of the bacteria was fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt.
  • Enteroinwazyjna Escherichia coli (Enteroinvasive Escherichia coli – EIEC). Causes bacterial dysentery.
  • Adherencyjna Escherichia coli (Diffuse Adherent Escherichia coli – DAEC). Causes chronic diarrhea in children.
  • Escherichia coli strains containing the K1 antigen. Causes meningitis in infants. Infection in adults is usually a complication of neurosurgery or damage to the central nervous system.
  • Uropathogenic E. coli. An etiologic factor in urinary tract infections, pyelonephritis, acute prostatitis, and bloodstream infections in the form of urosepsis. Bacteria belonging to this strain have a feature that allows them to bind to the cells lining the urinary tract. Bladder infection is especially common in adult women. The presence of prostatic hypertrophy or a bladder catheter also increases the risk of infection.

Symptoms of Intestinal Infection Due to E. Coli

Symptoms of digestive tract infection usually begin between one and five days after you have actually been infected with E. coli. Symptoms can consist of:

  • abdominal cramping
  • unexpected, severe watery diarrhea that might alter to bloody stools
  • gas
  • loss of appetite/nausea
  • throwing up (unusual)
  • fatigue
  • fever

Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to more than a week.

Symptoms of a severe E. coli infection might consist of:

  • bloody urine
  • reduced urine output
  • pale skin
  • bruising
  • dehydration.

Symptoms of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli infection:

  • The incubation period of the disease is 1 to 10 days, usually 3 to 4 days. The first symptom is diarrhea, often with an admixture of fresh blood, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and moderate fever. Symptoms last for an average of 5-7 days.
  • In 5-10% of patients, usually after 7 days, when the diarrhea passes, a life-threatening complication develops, i.e. hemolytic uremic syndrome, involving kidney damage, manifested as decreased or stopped urination and destruction of red blood cells, leading to anemia, manifested by pale skin and general weakness.

Symptoms of infection with Escherichia coli producing shiga toxin, a strain isolated during the 2011 epidemic in Germany, are similar to those associated with enterohaemorrhagic infection. However, the development of hemolytic uremic syndrome is more common and is additionally accompanied by neurological symptoms that are undetectable in enterohaemorrhagic infection.

Symptoms of intestinal coli induced dysentery caused by entero-invasive E. coli:

  • Bloody diarrhea;
  • fever;
  • abdominal cramps;
  • pain and pressure on the bowel when defecating.

Symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea, usually caused by enterotoxinogenic or enteroaggregative E. coli:

  • The incubation period is 1-2 days;
  • stools are watery, usually without pathological impurities such as blood or mucus;
  • accompanied by spastic abdominal pain;
  • signs of dehydration: dry mucous membranes, general weakness, increased thirst.

Call your doctor if you experience any of these severe symptoms.

According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, about 8 percent of those who are infected establish hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition where the red blood cells are harmed. This can result in kidney failure, which can be lethal, specifically for children and the senior. HUS usually starts about 5 to 10 days after the onset of diarrhea.

Symptoms usually last 3-4 days and go away on their own.

Symptoms of infantile diarrhea caused by EAggEC, EAEC, EPEC:

  • The stools are watery, without abnormal impurities such as blood or mucus;
  • Diarrhea lasts for up to 2 weeks or longer;
  • occasional fever.

Urinary tract infection with uropathogenic strains of E. coli causes so-called dysuric symptoms:

  • frequent urination;
  • urinary urgency;
  • urethral burning.

In advanced cases of untreated infections, pyelonephritis can develop, which is manifested by high fever, chills, low back pain, nausea, or vomiting, among other things.

Acute prostatitis also occurs with fever, chills, lower abdominal pain, and soreness, swelling, and fever in the prostate area.

Symptoms of physiologic Escherichia coli infection:

  • Pneumonia. Usually affects the lower lobes and can be complicated by empyema. Symptoms of pneumonia: fever, shortness of breath, rapid breathing. Physical examination reveals auscultation and muffled sound during tapping during pulmonary auscultation.
  • Peritonitis. A typical complication that occurs after a ruptured or diverticular appendage is peritonitis. The main symptoms are fever, severe abdominal pain, and stoppage of gas and stool. Physical examination shows peritoneal symptoms, including Blumberg’s symptom, the patient lies in a characteristic manner – with legs bent, abdominal muscles very tense.
  • Diseases of the gallbladder. Symptoms of acute cholangitis and cholecystitis: fever with chills, abdominal pain in the right subcostal area, and jaundice are symptoms that form the so-called Charcot Triad.

Escherichia coli strains containing the K1 antigen can present with meningitis in infants, including fever, jaundice, decreased appetite, apnea, vomiting, drowsiness, and seizures. Children over 4 months of age may also experience neck stiffness, that is, an inability to bend the head passively toward the chest.

If you notice the symptoms described above, see your doctor.

How often colorectal infections occur

Data vary from country to country, but the tendency for such infections to increase remains.

For example, according to the National Institute of Hygiene, in Poland there are about 400-500 diarrhea-forming Escherichia coli infections annually, several cases of enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli infections and several cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome And in the United States there are over 260000 cases of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli infections annually, including 36% of the O157: H7 strain, which causes serious complications.

Several dozen cases of meningitis and sepsis caused by the K1 strain of Escherichia coli are detected in every European country each year. It is estimated that about 50% of women experience at least one episode of urinary tract infection caused by uropathogenic Escherichia coli. It is also the leading etiologic factor in hospital-acquired infections.

The incidence of other infections caused by E. coli is unknown, since there are almost no separate statistics for them.

Causes of E. Coli Infection

Diarrheagenic E. coli of the family Enterobacteriaceae, genus Escherichia (e. coli), which has many antigenic variants, are considered to be causative agents of enteric escherichioses. The serovars of pathogenic and nonpathogenic e. coli do not differ morphologically.

Microbiology: E. coli are thickened gram-negative bacteria, ranging in size from 3.0-1.5 x 0.3-0.8 µm; they have flagellae, do not form spores, and are variable in motility. They actively ferment simple carbohydrates and secrete specific bactericidal substances.

Highly resistant in the environment, they reproduce in various food products. Prolonged persistence (1-3 months) in feces, household items, water, soil. At what temperature does it die? Instantly in boiling water; 15 minutes at 60°C. It is sensitive to 1-3% chloramine, bleach, phenol and lysol solutions (inactivated in 30 minutes). Many strains are highly resistant to a number of antibiotics.

Individuals and animals generally have some E. coli in their intestinal tracts, but some pressures cause infection. The bacteria that cause infection can enter into your body in a number of methods.

Improper Food Handling

Whether food is prepared in the house, in a dining establishment, or in a supermarket, risky handling and preparation can cause contamination. Common causes of gastrointestinal disorder consist of:

  • failing to clean hands totally before preparing or consuming food
  • utilizing utensils, cutting boards, or serving dishes that aren’t clean, causing cross-contamination
  • taking in dairy items or food including mayo that have actually been left out too long
  • consuming foods that haven’t been stored at the right temperature level
  • consuming foods that aren’t prepared to the right temperature or duration of time, particularly meats and poultry
  • taking in raw seafood items
  • consuming unpasteurized milk
  • taking in raw produce that hasn’t been correctly cleaned.

Food Processing

During the slaughtering process, poultry and meat products can get bacteria from the animals’ intestinal tracts.

Contaminated Water

Poor sanitation can cause water to consist of bacteria from human or animal waste. You can get the infection from drinking infected water or from swimming in it.

Person to Person

E. coli can spread out when an infected person does not clean their hands after having a defecation. The bacteria are then spread when that individual touches somebody or something else, like food. Nursing homes, schools, and child care centers are particularly vulnerable to person-to-person spreading.


Individuals who work with animals, specifically cows, goats, and sheep, are at enhanced risk for infection. Anyone who touches animals or who operates in an environment with animals must wash their hands routinely and completely.


Diagnosis of Escherichia coli infection is possible by culture or direct examination of biological material such as feces, urine, blood, sputum, cerebrospinal fluid, aspirate. The strain that causes the infection can be identified, as well as detecting shiga toxins.

Depending on the strain and site of infection, additional tests show the presence of white blood cells in stool, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, and high inflammatory parameters: C-reactive protein, procalcitonin, and fibrinogen. To diagnose pneumonia, a lung X-ray is prescribed, and a CT scan for intra-abdominal infections.

How E. Coli Infection Is Treated

Most of the times, home care is all that’s required to alleviate an E. coli infection. Consume plenty of water, get lots of rest, and watch out for more severe symptoms that need a call to your doctor.

If you have bloody diarrhea or fever, talk to your doctor before taking over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications. You ought to constantly check with your pediatrician before providing medications to infants or children!

If dehydration is an issue, your doctor may order hospitalization and intravenous fluids.

Many people reveal improvement within 5 to seven days after the beginning of an infection, and make a full recovery.

Methods for treating infectious diseases associated with E. coli

The basis for treating diarrhea caused by E. coli infection is hydration of the body.

The use of antibiotics is usually not necessary. Moreover, antibiotics are contraindicated in the treatment of strains producing shiga toxins due to the increased risk of hemolytic uremic syndrome. Antidiarrheal drugs that block intestinal peristalsis, such as loperamide, also increase this risk.

Infections caused by other strains of E. coli require antibiotic therapy. Sometimes surgical treatment, drainage of the abscess, or artificial respiration with a respirator is necessary.

Can infections caused by E. coli be completely cured?

The prognosis for a full recovery depends on the organs involved, the severity of the infection, and when treatment was started.

In some cases, E. coli is excreted from the feces of healthy people even weeks after symptoms have disappeared. In children, the carrier period usually lasts longer than in adults.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome, complicated by infection with strains producing shiga toxin, is associated with a 2 to 3% mortality rate, whereas neonatal septicemia caused by the Escherichia coli K1 strain is associated with an 8% risk of death.

What to do after stopping E. coli treatment?

Patients with meningitis may need rehabilitation and follow-up for neurologic defects. Treatment after other infections is considered on an individual basis.

What to do to avoid E. coli infections?

To avoid enterohaemorrhagic E. coli infections, wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, changing diapers, before cooking, and after contact with animals.

  • Cook meat so that it is fully cooked;
  • Avoid raw, unpasteurized milk and dairy products;
  • Also do not consume unpasteurized juices;
  • Avoid swallowing water when swimming in lakes, ponds, pools.

Recommendations for preventing “traveler’s diarrhea” include:

  • Maintaining hygiene, including frequent hand washing with soap and water or using alcohol-based products, especially before eating;
  • Drinking only bottled, boiled or chemically purified water, no tap water or ice made from water of unknown origin;
  • Using bottled, boiled or chemically purified water to wash dishes, rinse your mouth, wash fruits and vegetables, prepare food and ice cubes;
  • Eating foods that are brand-name packaged or freshly cooked when hot.
  • Avoid eating raw meat and seafood, as well as unpeeled fruits and vegetables.

How to Prevent E. Coli Infection

Practicing safe food habits can decrease your opportunities of establishing an intestinal infection due to E. coli. These consist of:

  • washing fruits and vegetables completely
  • avoiding cross-contamination using clean utensils, pans, and serving plates
  • keeping raw meats away from other foods and far from other clean products
  • not defrosting meat on the counter
  • always thawing meat in the refrigerator or microwave
  • refrigerating leftovers instantly
  • drinking just pasteurized milk items (avoid raw milk)
  • not preparing food if you have diarrhea.

You should likewise ensure that meat is cooked appropriately. The United States Department of Agriculture provides guidelines for cooking meat and poultry to appropriate temperatures to make sure all bacteria are eliminated. You can utilize a meat thermometer to check that meat is prepared to these temperatures:

  • poultry: 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • ground meat, eggs: 160 degrees
  • roasts, fish, shellfish: 145 degrees.

Natural Treatment For E. coli Infection

For conditions caused by E. coli, there’s no treatment to cure the infection, allay the symptoms or fend off the issues. By and large, your health care service provider will recommend the following to you:

  • Rest: Helps you recover quicker from the symptoms of the infection.
  • Fluids: Loads of fluids and liquids are essential in order to avoid dehydration and fatigue.
  • Do not take an anti-diarrhea drug; this tends to slow down your GI tract operating, therefore preventing your body from getting rid of the bacteria and its toxins.
  • Prescription antibiotics are likewise not encouraged, given that, they can increase your risk of establishing severe problems.
  • Drink a lot of clear liquids– water, sodas, soups, broths, juices and organic teas. Keep in mind to steer clear of apple and pear juices, caffeine.
  • Slowly, begin including foods to your daily regimen. As soon as you begin feeling better, have a low-fiber diet.
  • Avoid fatty foods, dairy products, high-fiber foods and highly experienced foods; these can make your symptoms even worse.

In case you have a major infection which has actually led to hemolytic uremic syndrome, you need to be hospitalized without delay and administered encouraging care– intravenous fluids, blood transfusion and kidney dialysis.

Among the simplest things you can do to prevent an E. coli infection is to routinely clean your hands. You should wash your hands prior to dealing with, serving, or consuming food, and particularly after touching animals, working in animal environments, or utilizing the bathroom. Practicing excellent hygiene and following food safety guidelines can go a long way to decreasing your danger of infection.

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