Escherichia coli is the medical term for the bacteria that most of us know as E. coli. It commonly lives in the lower intestines of warm-blooded organisms like people and animals. Although most strains are harmless, some can cause dangerous infections. Here’s everything you need to know about E. coli.
E. Coli: What it is, Symptoms, and Causes
E. coli is a rod-shaped bacterium that belongs to a diverse group of bacteria of the Enterobacteriaceae family. Most E. coli are, in fact, an essential part of a healthy human intestinal tract. Some strains are pathogenic, meaning they can make you sick. These strains travel around through water contaminated water or food or contact with animals or other persons.
The most familiar strains cause illness by producing a toxin called Shiga. Shiga damages the lining of your small intestine and causes diarrhea. These strains are also called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). The most well-known STEC in North America and most often referred to as E. coli O157. STEC symptoms appear around 3-5 days after infection and include:
- Stomach pain and cramps
- Diarrhea that ranges from watery to bloody
- Nausea or loss of appetite
- Low fever
Most E. coli infections go away on their own, thankfully. Drinking plenty of fluids and resting as much as possible are ways you can help manage symptoms in the meantime. It takes around five to seven days, on average, from the start of symptoms to feel better.
Antibiotics can make your illness worse and put you at risk for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). As a result, they are not typically used in STEC 0157 infections. Anti-diarrheal medicines like Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, or Imodium could also increase your chance of HUS and aren’t recommended either.
E. Coli and Frequent UTIs
E. coli can also lead to secondary infections such as UTIs. The National Kidney Foundation estimates that E. coli causes 80 to 90 percent of UTIs. It causes problems if it enters your urinary system, and infections that spread to the kidneys can be particularly serious.
Bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, which is the typical treatment path for UTIs. Potential new options for E. coli are currently being evaluated in clinical research studies. If you have frequent UTIs, enrolling in E. coli vaccine studies here at Charlottesville Medical Research may be an option. Call us at (434) 817-2442, or visit our website for more information!