Research on E. coli
Research on E. coli
E. coli (Escherichia coli), is a type of bacteria that normally lives in your intestines. It’s also found in the gut of some animals.
Most types of E. coli are harmless and even help keep your digestive tract healthy. But some strains can cause diarrhea if you eat contaminated food or drink fouled water.
While many of us associate E. coli with food poisoning, you can also get pneumonia and urinary tract infections from different types of the bacteria. In fact, 75% to 95% of urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli.
Some versions of E. coli make you sick by making a toxin called Shiga. This toxin damages the lining of your intestine. The strains of E. coli that make the toxin are sometimes called STEC, which is short for “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.”
One especially bad strain, O157:H7, can make you very sick. It causes abdominal cramps, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. It is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children. It can also cause life-threatening symptoms such as:
You should get emergency help if you have any of these symptoms.
How Do You Get Infected?
You can become infected when you swallow even a small amount of E. coli bacteria. Among the ways this can happen:
- Ground meat: You eat ground meat that carries E. coli, and the meat wasn’t cooked enough to kill the bacteria. When meat is processed, sometimes bacteria from the animals’ intestines make their way into the meat. This happens more with ground meat because it comes from more than one animal.
- Untreated milk: You drink unpasteurized milk, which hasn’t been heated to kill bacteria. E. coli can get into the milk from the cow’s udder or from milking equipment.
- Vegetables and fruit: You might eat fresh vegetables or fruit that’s been tainted by water that has the bacteria. This happens most often when manure from nearby animals mixes with the water supply.
- Other foods and beverages: You might also get E. coli from unpasteurized fruit juices and yogurt and cheese made from raw milk.
- Water: You swallow water that contains E. coli, perhaps while swimming in a pool, lake, or pond.
- Animals: It can be found at petting zoos or animal exhibits at fairs.
You can also contaminate food in your own kitchen if you allow a knife or cutting board that has touched uncooked meat (like chicken) to come into contact with food that will be eaten raw (like a salad).
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