In one of our November blogs, we talked about how E. coli is the cause of approximately 85% of UTIs. We also talked about how the bacteria get into your urinary system and how you can reduce your chances of infection. If the infection from E. coli makes it into your kidneys, it can create a dangerous situation. This danger is what we will cover in this blog.
E coli and the Kidneys
E. coli is a type of bacteria found in the gut of humans and animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless, but some can be harmful. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) is a dangerous type of E. coli that is most often involved in outbreaks and spreads through contaminated food or water. It can cause:
- Stomach cramps
Infection with STEC can be mild and resolve after 5-7 days, but it can also cause a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure. Approximately 5-10% of people who get a STEC infection develop HUS. In HUS, STEC bacteria destroy your red blood cells. This can block your kidneys’ filters and damage them, leading to kidney failure.
Early symptoms of HUS include:
- Blood in stool
- Feeling extremely tired
Later symptoms can include urinating less frequently, unexplained bruises, pale appearance, and bleeding from your nose and mouth. Depending on the damage from HUS, you may need to be on dialysis temporarily or have a blood transfusion. Fortunately, most people will fully recover from HUS after a few weeks. However, even though you may have recovered, the damage done to your kidneys can lead to chronic kidney disease or even kidney failure later in life.
Severe Infections More Common in Certain Age Groups
Children under 5 and adults over 65 are more likely to get severe E. coli infections like STEC. HUS caused by STEC is the biggest cause of acute kidney failure in children. Also, individuals with HIV, diabetes, and cancer are more at risk for STEC. There is no medicine to treat E. coli infection, but potential new options, including an E. coli vaccine, are being studied in clinical research studies.
If you’re an adult experiencing frequent UTIs, enrolling studies may help. To learn more about the E. coli vaccine studies here at Charlotteville Medical Research, call us at (434) 817-2442 or visit our website today!