Escherichia coli ( E. coli ) is a bacterium that lives in the human intestine to maintain the health of the digestive system. These bacteria are generally harmless. However , there are strains of E. coli that produce toxins and cause severe diarrhea .
A person can be exposed to dangerous E. coli bacteria by consuming contaminated food and drink. Exposure to E. Coli can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This disease caused by E. coli bacteria will have a more severe impact if it occurs in children and the elderly.
Causes of Escherichia Coli Bacterial Infection
The presence of E. coli bacteria in the human body is a natural thing, because these bacteria play a role in maintaining the health of the digestive tract. However, there are several types of E. coli bacteria that are actually harmful to human health, namely:
- Shiga toxin-producing coli or STEC/VTEC/EHEC
- Enterotoxigenic coli (ETEC)
- Enteropathogenic coli (EPEC)
- Enteroaggregative coli (EAEC)
- Enteroinvasive coli (EIEC)
- Diffusely adherent coli (DAEC)
Most diarrhea is caused by STEC type bacteria. These bacteria produce toxins that can damage the lining of the small intestine, causing bloody stools .
In general, harmful E. coli bacteria can enter the human body through:
Contaminated food and drink The dangerous coli bacteria are very easily transmitted due to consuming contaminated food and drink.
Direct contact with E. coli bacteria
Forgetting to wash your hands after handling animals or after defecating, then making contact with other people can transmit the bacteria.
Risk factors for E. Coli infection
Anyone can get an E. coli bacterial infection . However, there are several factors that can increase a person's risk of developing a disease caused by E. coli bacteria , including:
Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are more susceptible to suffering from diseases caused by E. coli and suffering from more serious complications.
Weak immune system People with weak immune systems, such as AIDS sufferers and patients undergoing chemotherapy, are more susceptible to E. coli infection .
Decreased acid in the stomach
Acid-lowering drugs or heartburn medications , such as esomeprazole, pantoprazole, lansoprazole, and omeprazole , have the potential to increase the risk of developing E. coli infection .
Symptoms of Escherichia Coli Infection
Symptoms of E. coli infection can vary from person to person. However, this infection is often characterized by diarrhea , which generally appears 3-4 days after exposure to the bacteria.
In addition to diarrhea, other symptoms of E. Coli infection can include:
- Severe stomach pain to cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle ache
When to see a doctor
Some E. coli infections can be treated at home and go away on their own within a few days. However, people with this infection are advised to see a doctor immediately if they experience the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea that doesn't get better after 4 days in adults or for 2 days in children
- Vomiting for more than 12 hours
- Symptoms of dehydration appear , such as decreased urine output, extreme thirst, or dizziness
- Excreted stool mixed with pus or blood ( dysentery )
Escherichia coli infection diagnosis
The doctor will ask about the symptoms and physically examine the patient. After that, the doctor will examine the stool sample in the laboratory. Through this examination, the doctor can find out whether the stool contains E. coli or not.
Escherichia coli infection treatment
An E. coli infection usually clears up on its own within a few days. However, in patients who have severe diarrhea, doctors can give antibiotics .
However, antibiotics should not be given to patients suspected of being infected with STEC-type E. coli bacteria. This is because antibiotics can increase the production of Shiga poison , thereby exacerbating the symptoms experienced.
During recovery, it's important to rest and get enough fluids. In addition, eat soupy foods to replace lost body fluids due to vomiting and diarrhea.
Once you feel better, try eating low-fiber foods, such as crackers, bread or eggs. However, you should avoid dairy products and fatty foods, because they can make symptoms worse.
If the symptoms do not improve after taking antibiotics for 3 days, it is advisable to consult your doctor again. This can indicate that the infection is caused by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, such as ESBL-producing bacteria . Therefore, further examination needs to be done.
Complications Due to Escherichia Coli Infection
A small proportion of patients with STEC type E. coli can develop complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition occurs due to toxins from the E.coli bacteria that flow in the blood vessels to the kidneys. As a result, patients can experience acute kidney failure , pancreatitis , seizures, and coma.
These complications are more common in children aged 1-10 years and the elderly than adults.
Prevention of Escherichia coli infection
Adopting a clean lifestyle can prevent infection with the dangerous Escherichia coli bacteria. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Wash hands after using the bathroom, after changing children's diapers, and before and after preparing food.
- Wash your hands after touching animals or working in an environment with lots of animals, such as at a zoo or farm.
- Make sure the items that touch the mouths of babies and toddlers, such as pacifiers and teethers , are clean.
- If there is no water and soap, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to reduce germs on your hands.
In addition to some of the precautions above, you should cook meat thoroughly and wash all cooking utensils used, to prevent exposure to harmful E. coli bacteria from food.