E. coli infection can act like ‘acid on the intestinal wall’, expert says

E. coli infections, like the one that sickened hundreds of children in Calgary daycares, are so brutal because the bacteria can act “like an acid” on people’s intestinal lining, a doctor says.

The recent outbreak has resulted in more than a dozen children being hospitalized, some requiring dialysis. Hundreds of other people have fallen ill from exposure to the potentially deadly bacteria.

The bacteria, known as E. coli, which produces Shiga toxin, can cause kidney failure, bloody diarrhea, blood clots and even death, explained Dr. Iris Gorfinkel, a Toronto-based family physician.

“Most E. coli is not a disease of concern – we carry E. coli in our intestines – but the problem is E. coli. coli producing Shiga toxin. It’s different,” Gorfinkel told PKBNEWS. The morning show Tuesday.

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“So if a person ingests just 10 of these bacteria, they produce a toxin in the gut that acts like an acid on the intestinal wall. It causes watery diarrhea at first, but then, because it’s like acid on the wall, it causes bloody diarrhea, and it hurts, a lot of cramping.

The outbreak at Calgary daycares was first reported on September 4, and since then there have been 329 laboratory-confirmed cases of bacterial infection linked to it. Thirteen children remain hospitalized, 10 of whom suffer from hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication affecting the blood and kidneys. Six of these children are on dialysis.

A report released by Alberta Health Services earlier this week says inspectors found inadequate sanitation, live c**kroaches and food handling issues in a central kitchen at the child care centers.

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Investigators are still looking for the origin of the outbreak.

At a news conference Friday, the Alberta government announced a one-time payment of $2,000 per child to affected families. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said information on how to apply for this funding will be available soon.

E. coli is typically spread through infected food products and water, known as fecal-oral spread, Gorfinkel said. For example, it could be undercooked meat, a poorly washed vegetable or unpasteurized juice.

However, there are cases where transmission can come from an infected person who had E. coli, did not wash their hands properly, and then handled food in a kitchen.

Gorfinkel predicted that the majority of children infected with the bacteria would “get better on their own.” However, she said a small percentage can become seriously ill with hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause the kidneys to shut down.

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“Overall, one in 200 people will die from the disease,” she said.

“It’s a scary disease because it can take a healthy child and make them very sick, put them on dialysis and even cause chronic kidney failure,” she said. “If this toxin enters the bloodstream, it acts like an acid on the lining of blood vessels… it can cause hyperinflammation, a*sociated with blood clots and kidney failure. »

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and children

Dr. Ted Steiner, an infectious disease doctor in Vancouver, said Shiga toxin-producing E. coli is much more contagious than other types, meaning you don’t need a lot of bacteria to get sick. sick.

That increased contagiousness could explain why the outbreak at Calgary daycares has spread so widely, he said.

“In daycares, it’s pretty easy to spread because you have kids wearing diapers and little kids putting their hands in their mouths and can’t really practice hand hygiene like babies can. older children or adults,” he said.

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“The most common type of outbreak involves contaminated food. But these types of person-to-person outbreaks in daycares have been reported.

Children and the elderly are also more likely to develop hemolytic uremic syndrome as a result of the disease.

“I don’t think we completely understand why, but children seem to be at pretty high risk compared to adults,” he said.

“The biggest concern is that the kidneys could shut down completely or the blood vessels could be damaged enough to cause permanent problems that will not improve.”

Steiner said there is also evidence that children who recover are still at significantly higher risk of developing long-term kidney problems.

How to help prevent an E. coli infection

When it comes to E. coli, Gorfinkel said people take risks all the time. This is because bacteria have no scent, flavor or visible presence, making them very difficult to detect.

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“The best protection is to ensure that we do not rely solely on what we see and smell,” she warned.

E. coli can be transmitted in a variety of ways, including contact with animals.

For example, in a petting zoo, animals like sheep, cows and goats can serve as carriers of the bacteria.

“That’s what this hand sanitizer is for. So washing your hands is extremely important to try to prevent this disease,” she said.

When it comes to food, undercooked meat can pose a significant risk of E. coli infection if it contains the bacteria. That’s why it’s crucial to check the temperature of the meat, and it should reach a minimum of 70°C (or 160°F) to ensure it has been sufficiently cooked, Gorfinkel stressed.

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And then there is the possibility of bacteria residing on fresh produce.

“Think about vegetables: E. coli may be present on lettuce, or hidden on fruit,” she said. “You have to wash it because you won’t see, smell or taste that E. coli if it’s there, so washing is key.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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