Escherichia coli: Description, Causes and Risk Factors:A species that occurs normally in the intestines of humans and other vertebrates, is widely distributed in nature, and is a frequent cause of infections of the urogenital tract and of neonatal meningitis and diarrhea in infants; enteropathogenic strains (serovars) of Escherichia coli cause diarrhea due to enterotoxin, the production of which seems to be associated with a transferable episome; the type species of the genus.Escherichia coli (E. coli) typically colonizes the gastrointestinal tract of human infants within a few hours after birth. Usually, E. coli and its human host coexist in good health and with mutual benefit for decades. These commensal E. coli strains rarely cause disease except in immunocompromized hosts or where the normal gastrointestinal barriers are breached — as in peritonitis, for example. The niche of commensal E. coli is the mucous layer of the mammalian colon. The bacterium is a highly successful competitor at this crowded site, comprising the most abundant facultative anaerobe of the human intestinal microflora. Despite the enormous body of literature on the genetics and physiology of this species, the mechanisms whereby E. coli assures this auspicious symbiosis in the colon are poorly characterized. One interesting hypothesis suggests that E. coli might exploit its ability to utilize gluconate in the colon more efficiently than other resident species, thereby allowing it to occupy a highly specific metabolic niche.E. coli infections are generally caused by eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, or coming into direct contact with someone who is sick or with animals that carry the bacteria.Infections can be caused by,Improperly cooked beef.
Raw fruits and uncooked vegetables, including sprouts.
Untreated drinking water.
Unpasteurized (raw) milk and (raw) milk products, including raw milk cheese.
Unpasteurized apple juice/cider.
Direct contact with animals at petting zoos or farms.
Food can become contaminated with Escherichia coli when animals are slaughtered or processed, even if precautions are taken. In processed or ground meat, the bacteria can be spread throughout the meat. Food can also be contaminated when it is handled by a person infected with E. coli, or from cross-contamination because of unsanitary food handling practices.Raw fruits and vegetables can become contaminated with Escherichia coli while in the field by improperly composted manure, contaminated water, wildlife or poor hygiene by farm workers.E. coli infections can also spread easily from person-to-person.Symptoms:The patient will typically experience symptoms within three to four days after being exposed to the bacteria, however, in some cases they may appear within a day or a week later.The individual may experience:- typically, the first symptom is severe abdominal cramping that comes on suddenly.
Diarrhea - a few hours after the sudden abdominal pain, the patient typically has watery diarrhea. A day later there may be bright red bloody stools, caused by sores in the intestines.
Nausea and vomiting.
Fever - note that many infected people may not have a fever.
Fatigue - diarrhea causes loss of fluids and electrolytes (dehydration), making the patient feel sick and tired.
Diagnosis:To diagnose illness caused by Escherichia coli infection, your doctor will send a sample of your stool to a laboratory to test for the presence of E. coli bacteria. The bacteria may be cultured to confirm the diagnosis and identify specific toxins, such as those produced by E. coli O157:H7.Healthcare providers use lab tests to identify Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in stool samples.Treatment:Generally, the disease must run its course. Treatment for those infected with E. coli includes drinking plenty of liquids to replace the body fluids lost through diarrhea and vomiting, and to avoid dehydration. The most helpful fluids for protecting against dehydration are oral re-hydration fluids. These products are sold as pre-mixed fluids and are commonly found in drug stores. Other drinks that do not contain caffeine or alcohol can also help with mild dehydration; however, these drinks may not replace the nutrients and minerals lost during illness.Young children, the elderly and people with other illnesses are at greatest risk for dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat and dizziness upon standing. A dehydrated child may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy. Severe dehydration can be serious and the ill person may require re-hydration in a hospital. If you think you or someone under your care is dehydrated, contact your healthcare provider.Antibiotics are not used to treat the illness, as they may increase the risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
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