HomeHealth A-ZE.coli (Escherichia coli) - Symptoms, Causes Its Transmission and Treatment

E.coli (Escherichia coli) – Symptoms, Causes Its Transmission and Treatment

Escherichia coli (E.coli), present in the intestine, may sometimes cause infection. It damages the intestinal lining and causes symptoms such as diarrhea. Pathogenic strains of E. coli are found in both humans and animals. A high percentage of E. coli is found in meat, water, milk and milk products, contaminated water, and seafood.

More about E.coli

Escherichia coli (E.coli) are the bacteria typically present in the digestive tract, especially in the intestine. This may help to keep your intestine healthy. Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some cause various symptoms. One of the most common pathogenic strains of E. coli is the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). This strain may result in foodborne diseases. The symptoms of STEC arise due to the toxin secreted by the organism. Other E.coli that can cause diarrhea are Enterotoxigenic E. coli, Enteropathogenic E. coli, Enteroaggregative E. coli, Enteroinvasive E. coli, and Diffusely adherent E.coli

The strains that result in various gastrointestinal symptoms are more prone to transmission. If a doctor diagnoses you with an E. coli infection, you are highly contagious for its transmission. Apart from gastrointestinal symptoms, E. coli may also cause urinary tract infection and pneumonia. E. coli is the causative agent in the majority of urinary tract infections.

What are the Symptoms of E.coli Infections?

Generally, you may have symptoms within 3 to 4 days after exposure. However, symptoms may also occur 1 to 7 days after the exposure. Following are the symptoms a patient with an E. coli infection experiences:

When to See a Doctor?

E. coli infections may cause various gastrointestinal symptoms. If you notice the symptoms mentioned above or any other symptoms of concern, book an appointment with your doctor.

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What are the Causes of E.coli Infections?

When you ingest pathogenic E.coli, it reaches the intestine and secretes a powerful toxic substance. This toxic substance destroys the inner lining of the intestine. This results in diarrhea, which may be severe and bloody. Some strains have potent pathogenic effects, and minimal exposure to even a small amount may result in infection.

The main causes include the transmission of E. coli infections through exposure to different sources. Humans and animals are the common sources of an E.coli infection. The transmission of these infections happens through consuming contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, and personal contact.

  • Contaminated food. E. coli is present in the intestines of animals. At the time of slaughtering cattle, the meat for consumption may contain E. coli. The risk of contamination increases with ground beef as it may contain various types of meat. 

E.coli infections may also be transmitted through raw or undercooked meat. It may also be contracted by eating contaminated fruits and vegetables. Drinking unpasteurized milk may also be a source of E. coli transmission. Cheese and yogurt made from raw milk may be other sources of an E. coli infection.

  • Contaminated water. E.coli may also transmit through contaminated water. Ground and surface water pollution may be the result of human and animal stools. The municipal supply of contaminated water may result in E. coli transmission. Various sanitation methods, such as ozone or ultraviolet light and chemical treatment of water with chlorine, may kill E. coli.

Water wells pose a greater concern as a safe source as there are no effective methods to disinfect them. People who swim in lakes of contaminated water are at a high risk of getting an E. coli infection.

  • Personal contact. The transmission of E.coli may also occur through personal contact, particularly in cases of poor hygiene. If an infected child or adult fails to wash their hands properly, the infections can transmit among family.

What are the Risk Factors of E.coli Infections?

The patient may contract an infection if exposed to the pathogenic strains of E. coli. However, certain factors increase the risk of an E. coli infection. These risk factors are described below.

  • Eating undercooked food or drinking unpasteurized milk.
  • The elderly and children are more vulnerable to E. coli infections.
  • If the acid level in the stomach is too low as acid protects from E. coli infections.
  • The compromised immune system in a patient undergoing cancer treatment or on immunosuppressants.

What is the WHO’s ‘Five keys to safer food’?

WHO’s Five Keys to Safer Food is a measure to prevent food-related infections. These five keys to safer food are:

  • Cook food completely.
  • Keep raw and cooked food separately.
  • Keep yourself and the surroundings clean while cooking.
  • Store food at the correct temperature.
  • Use pure water for preparing food.

What are the Treatment Options for E.coli Infections?

Treatment for E.coli infection is primarily aimed at managing symptoms. Following are the treatment options:

  • Managing symptoms. The doctor may advise you to take rest and take plenty of fluids for rehydration and medications to hasten your recovery.
  • Managing complications. Serious E. coli infections result in complications rarely. If you develop them, the doctor may admit you to the hospital

What are the Complications of E.coli Infections?

An E. coli infection is a curable condition. People with infections generally recover within a few days. However, some serious cases of E. coli infection may result in complications. Children and the elderly are more vulnerable to complications, which include:

What are the Preventive Measures for E.coli Infections?

There are no medications that will protect you from an E.coli infection. Currently, research is underway to develop a vaccine. Following are some measures to prevent E. coli infections:

  • Avoid undercooked food
  • Wash vegetables thoroughly
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk
  • Practice good habits of hygiene

Conclusion

People with E. coli infections have a high potential to transmit the infection. Transmission of pathogenic strains of E. coli may occur through drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, and personal contact with people with an E. coli infection.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does diarrhea progress with an E. coli infection?

The main symptom of E. coli is diarrhea. On the first day of the symptoms, you may experience normal levels of diarrhea. However, the infection causes sores in the intestine. This may result in bloody diarrhea that may last for about 2 to 5 days.

How does an E. coli infection reach the blood?

If the patient has a urinary tract infection, the infection may enter the bloodstream. If the infection goes untreated, it may result in bacteremia.

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