What is an E Coli

E Coli are gram negative bacteria found in the intestine of man and animals. They are rod shaped bacteria and have ability to survive in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Most of the strains of E Coli are harmless but some strains are dangerous and are involved in various kinds of problems if transmitted to the humans. The common problems caused by E Coli are diarrhea and food poisoning. The harmless strains of E Coli are part of gut flora and are involved in the production of Vitamin K in the gut and also prevent the colonization of pathogenic bacteria in the intestine. E Coli is expelled into the environment due to fecal defecation.

E-Coli grow in the fecal matter in an aerobic environment. Major route of transmission is fecal-oral contamination. E-Coli are most commonly associated with food poisoning but you can also get pneumonia, fever and urinary tract infections. An estimated ratio of 75% to 90% urinary tract infection is caused by E Coli. See side effects of dry January on human health.

Spherical and rod-shaped bacteria inside bone tissue, on the surface of skin or mucous membrane. Osteomyelitis, 3D illustration
Spherical and rod-shaped bacteria inside bone tissue, on the surface of skin or mucous membrane. Osteomyelitis, 3D illustration (Credits: Dr_Microbe/Getty Images)

Infections caused by E Coli

There are many strains of E Coli that are involved in various kinds of serious infections. E Coli produces diseases after it invades the intestine of its host through contaminated sources forming clumps of bacteria. Usually, the patient does not require any medical treatment, and the symptoms disappear after a few days.

Few strains of E Coli such as 0157:

H7 and few others can cause serious complications. The strains of E Coli that produce the toxin Shiga, are known as STEC. STEC is the short form of Shiga toxin-producing E Coli. Some types of E Coli particularly E Coli O157:H7 can cause serious intestinal infection. It is one among the STEC strain. They may lead to bloody diarrhoea, kidney failure, haemolytic uremic syndrome and occasionally death.

In May 2011, one E Coli strain O104:

H4 was the cause of a severe bacterial outbreak in Germany which later travels to other countries also. Germany was infected with enterohemorrhagic. E-Coli EHEC leading to the HUS syndrome resulting in a medical emergency. Along with Germany 15 other countries were also affected from the outbreak of disease.

How do you get infection?

  • A person can be infected by swallowing a small amount of E Coli or comes in contact with the source directly. Certain ways to get infection are.
  • Meat: One of the major sources of E Coli infection is eating contaminated meat. The meat which is not properly cooked or not cooked enough up to a certain temperature required to kill the bacteria can be a source of infection. As E Coli is present in various animals’ intestine. When the meat is processed, sometimes E Coli from the intestine make their way into the meat. It mostly happens with the ground meat because it comes from meat of different animals.
  • Untreated Milk: Un-pasteurized milk which is not pasteurised to kill the bacteria is a source of E Coli infection. E Coli can get into milk from un-hygienic environment containing animals waste around the milk collecting container.
  • Vegetables and fruits: vegetables and fruits mostly get contaminated by water used for tainting the stock. Many a times water sources are contaminated by animal manure proving to be a rich source of bacteria.
  • Water: contaminated water of swimming pools and ponds is a source of E Coli infection.
  • Milk products: Food items obtained from Raw milk Such as cheese and yogurt can pass infection.

Other people: You can get infection from other person who has E Coli bacterial strain. While changing the diaper of a child your hands may get contaminated. If you don’t wash hands properly and eat with unwashed hands, you may swallow the bacteria. If you are looking for a nursing home then read this article on nursing homes for elderly people.


One of the major things to prevent yourself and your family from E Coli intention is to wash your hands properly specially in situations.

  • Before cooking meal
  • Before preparing food or milk bottles for infants
  • Before touching a pacifier, utensils and cutlery such as spoons that go into the mouth of the child
  • After using the bathroom or changing a baby diaper
  • Before and after handling the raw meat
  • After playing with the pets
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables with clean water before eating.
  • Drink only pasteurized or properly cooked milk

Wash knives, shelves and cutting boards with warm water and soap after using them for processing raw meat. Keep raw and cooked food separate. Also use separate containers for food which you eat raw such as vegetables and fruits. Do not place cooked meat on same plate which you have used for raw meat without properly washing it. Try not to swallow the water when you are swimming. It may be contaminated with bacterial strain. If you are facing infections from vaginal mesh then consult best doctor in your area.

E Coli Bacteria infection symptoms

Symptoms of infection with E Coli usually occur to 3 to 4 days after being exposed to bacteria. However, many a times symptoms may appear as early as 24 hours or as late as after a week.

The symptoms may include.

  • Severe abdominal pain and cramping, often starting suddenly mostly after few hours of eating
  • Watery diarrhoea following the abdominal pain after 24 hours
  • About one day later bright red bloody stools resulting from toxin’s damage to the intestine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A low-grade fever of 101 degrees in some cases
  • Loss of electrolytes and dehydration due to fluid loss
  • Fatigue
  • A headache and dizziness


Many infections of E Coli strains are self-limited therefore do not require any treatment. However, a basic treatment or caution is to keep yourself hydrated. Hydration can be in any form either oral or intravenous hydration. Many studies confirm that antibiotics should not be taken as a treatment. The reason is related to a fact that antibiotics damages the bacteria and damaged bacteria releases more toxins. The antibiotic use is only recommended in-patients having septic conditions. If the patient has high white blood count, low blood pressure, high fever, kidney problem, etc. antibiotics can be used.

Complications of E Coli

Only 10% of patients develop serious complications such as disability or death. Few major complications are mentioned below.

Hemorrhagic diarrhoea: This complication prolongs the disease to about a week and may cause serious abdominal pain and dehydration.

Haemolytic uremic syndrome: This condition may appear after 7 to 10 days after onset of symptoms. It also prolongs the disease specially in children under the age of 10. Hemolytic urea syndrome is the basic cause of kidney failure due to E Coli infection in children. The toxin produced by the E Coli strain damages the blood cells, accumulates in the kidney eventually leading to renal tissue damage. This damage may be so strong that it may lead to kidney failure.

Thrombotic or thrombocytopenic purpura

This complication mostly occurs in elders. The causes underlying thrombotic purpura are the same responsible for hemolytic urea. However in elderly people there are more clotting problems. The elderly people are more at stake of developing more fever and neuro-logic changes in addition to kidney damage. Until 1980’s TTP was considered as a dangerous problem but treatment with plasma exchange and infusion technique has reduced the rate of mortality.

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