Enterohemorrhagic E. coli

Wash hands before preparing food, cook animal products well and avoid unpasteurized milk – these are some steps to minimize the risk of transmission of E. colia bacteria that can cause major disruptions

The Escherichia coli (E. coli) are bacteria that are normally found in the intestines of humans and other animals. Although it seems that its presence has a particularly important role, described the bacterium E. coli enhances the absorption of some vitamins, especially vitamin K.

There are many different types of E. coli, most are harmless and in fact, represent an important part of the intestinal contents of healthy man. However, some are capable of producing related gastrointestinal diseases. The bacterium E. coli is also the most common cause of urinary tract infection and to a lesser extent, other infections such as meningitis in the newborn or respiratory infections.

Among all the types, E. coli that cause gastroenteritis is the most outstanding by its pathogenicity. It starts from stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea to, in many bloody times. Usually no fever or it is low and most patients recover within a week. Some infections are mild while others may be very serious. In fact, this type of E. coli was the cause of the outbreak in Germany and other European countries in 2011.

But there are other types of E. coli also producing gastrointestinal that, in general, cause more or less serious depending on the type of E. coli diarrhea states. In the worst cases of infection with E. coli, can produce hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is characterized by hemolytic anemia (low red blood cells), thrombocytopenia (decreased number of platelets) and insufficient acute renal which often requires hemodialysis.

Most people recover in a few weeks but sometimes the damage is permanent. Sometimes further involvement of the liver, pancreas and even the central nervous system, which may eventually cause the death of the infected person. The doctor also said that alterations in coagulation are another serious manifestation that occurs almost exclusively in adults.

For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 10% of patients infected with Enterohemorrhagic E. coli may develop HUS, with a case fatality rate of between 3% and 5%. Overall, HUS is the most common acute renal failure among young.

Transmission and prevention

The types of E. coli that cause diarrhea are primarily transmitted orally, by ingesting contaminated food or water. They can also be spread through direct contact with infected people or animals, but this is much less common way. As indicated by experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Disease Prevention (CDC), the bacteria can accidentally mixed with ground beef before it is packaged and can also be spread on meat if it hasn’t been sufficiently cooked, although its appearance and odor are normal. The bacteria can also live in the udders of cows and can reach the milk if it is not pasteurized. Vegetables and fruits that have been irrigated or washed in dirty water can also be a carrier.

In addition, the bacteria can spread through people who do not wash their hands after using the bathroom and the children in diapers, when the adults do not wash them well during the change.

The WHO states that, to prevent infection, we should apply control measures at all stages of the food chain, from agricultural production on the farm to processing, manufacturing and preparation of food in kitchens homes and commercial establishments.

There is a series of measures for everyone to prevent infection, such as washing hands thoroughly before cooking and always has been in contact with animals, avoiding cross-contamination between foods in the kitchen. An example is not using the same knife to cut meat and vegetables then, if we do not have washing with soap before.

Cooking animal origin well and avoiding drinking milk or derivatives that have not been pasteurized are other recommendations. Wash well plant foods, since bacteria can contaminate animal manures used in agriculture and survive on the surface of the vegetables.

Regarding treatment of the disease, Enterohemorrhagic E. coli should not be treated with antibiotics, as these drugs may increase the risk of HUS. Thus, treatment of these patients is based on measures of nonspecific life support, especially hydrated.