E. Coli Bacteria Infections

By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

E. Coli Bacteria Infections - Overview

E. coli is a bacterium which lives in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Most of the varieties of E. coli are known to be harmless to humans, but a few strains such as E. Cole 0157:H7 is known to cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea as well as vomiting in the affected patients.

E. Coli infections tend to occur when the affected person comes in contact with contaminated food or drinks. Raw vegetables and undercooked meats are the major source of the infections.

Healthy adults tend to recover from the infections within a period of a week. However, young children and old people are at a greater risk of developing life threatening complications due to the disease such as kidney failure.

Causes of Infection

Out of the many strains of the bacterium, only a few are known to cause diarrhea or other related infections. The strain 0157:H7 is known to contain a powerful toxin which causes damage to the small intestine leading to bloody diarrhea.

Contaminated food and water are the leading sources which lead to the infection in adults.

Contaminated Food Sources

Meats or Beef: E. Coli is found in the intestines of cattle and pig. Ground meats are derived from different animals, and therefore the chances of contamination are very high.

Unpasteurized Milk:  When E. Coli is present in the udder of the cow or on the milking equipment, there is a great chance of contamination in the raw milk.

Fruits and Vegetables: Sometimes, the runoff from the cattle farms is known to contaminate the fields in which the fresh produce is grown. This leads to the contamination in the vegetables as well as fruits.

Contaminated Water: The contamination of the water with the human or animal feces too poses as one of the biggest threats. A lot of times, the municipal water supplies which have been contaminated with the bacterium are linked to the outbreak of the infections. However, the disease can also spread from one person to the other via direct contact.

Signs and Symptoms of Infection

The symptoms of the infection tend to show up after three or four days of the initial contact. Some of the major symptoms are as follows:

  • Diarrhea – ranging from mild to severe and bloody.
  • Cramps in the abdomen with tenderness and pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

In case you continue to have persistent or severe diarrhea, it is recommended to see a doctor.

Tests and Diagnosis of the Infection

For the diagnosis of the infection, the doctor tends to send a sample of the stool to the laboratory for analysis. If the analysis shows the presence of E. Coli bacteria, the same are cultured in the laboratory for the presence of the toxins specific to the strain, such as the ones which are produced by E. Coli O157:H7.

Treatment and Drugs for the Infection

For the infections which are caused by the bacterium, there are no known treatments available. However, for most people, the doctors recommend rest followed by taking up enough fluids in order to prevent the chances of dehydration.

It is not recommended to take anti diarrheal medication as it slows down the working of the digestive system and it prevents the body to get rid of the toxins. Antibiotics are not recommended as they tend to increase the risk of complications.

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