What is Escherichia Coli?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a group of bacteria that belongs to the Enterobacteriaceae family. Most of this type of bacteria are normal inhabitants of the intestines, providing benefits to the health of the individual by preventing the growth of other harmful organisms. There are other Escherichia coli strains, however, that can often cause harm to the host. Infection with these harmful bacterial strains can often lead to gastroenteritis, meningitis in newborn babies, and urinary tract infections, among other illnesses.

In most cases, Escherichia coli can survive in the environment outside the human body. The feces of infected individuals usually contain the organisms. With improper disposal of waste, the organisms can contaminate drinking water and lead to widespread infections. Poor sanitary habits among food handlers can also lead to food contamination and infection. Person-to-person contact with infected individuals with poor health habits can also lead to E. coli infection.

There are five pathogenic, or harmful, strains of Escherichia coli which can cause gastrointestinal problems in people. They are Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC), enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC), and enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC). Most of them are spread through ingestion of contaminated foods and water.


STEC can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome and hemorrhagic colitis in infected patients. These organisms produce a toxin inside the body which can lead to severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. ETEC and EAEC, on the other hand, are the Escherichia coli strains which can cause travelers diarrhea, while EPEC can cause watery diarrhea. EIEC is more serious, leading to dysentery or bloody and mucoid diarrhea accompanied by pain, tenesmus, and dehydration.

Outside the intestines, Escherichia coli can invade the urinary tract, causing a urinary tract infection (UTI). In newborn babies, it can sometimes cause meningitis, which is often a serious condition. In rare cases, the organisms can reach the blood stream, causing bacteremia, which requires prompt medical attention. E. coli has been implicated in rare cases of pneumonia as well.

Escherichia coli growth can be isolated in the laboratory using stool samples from infected patients. Other laboratory tests are also available to detect presence of E. coli in stools, including the Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the use of immunofluorescence microscopy. Bacterial infections are often treated using antibiotics, as well as with hydration and electrolyte replacement.


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Post 6

I’ve always been afraid to go on a cruise ship, because I have heard of instances of E. coli outbreaks on board. When you are trapped out in the ocean with a bunch of infected people, it is hard to keep from getting ill.

My husband tried to talk me into going on a cruise. I backed up my reason for not wanting to go with evidence.

I researched and found one case of an outbreak on board in which the cause was found to be infected ice cubes. Everyone on the ship who drinks is exposed to ice cubes.

Another instance involved raw basil. It was used in a salad, and it turned out to be

the source of the outbreak.

There is just no way to protect yourself while in an enclosed space with tons of people. I realize that I could get infected in everyday life on land as well, but to me, the chances are a lot slimmer.

Post 5

I remember a few years back when there was an outbreak of E. coli in my town. The authorities traced it back to a popular fast food restaurant, which they promptly shut down.

The problem was not the food they were serving; it was the hygiene habits of the workers. They were paid minimum wage, so they cared as little as possible about what they were doing.

An undercover agent went in there and observed more than one person leaving the bathroom without washing their hands after having a bowel movement. If that restaurant ever reopens, it will have a hard time getting new customers.

Post 4

I got E. coli from eating raw spinach. Several other people in the neighborhood got it to, because we all bought it from the same supermarket.

I had the worst cramps I have ever experienced. I thought I was going to die from all the fluids coming out as both vomit and watery diarrhea. I remember my lips being very parched, and I knew this was a sign of dehydration.

I had to be hospitalized so that I could receive fluids intravenously. I saw several of my neighbors in the hospital as well. I truly believe that I would have died from it, had I not gotten treatment.

Post 3

what does it mean, by result of examination, 50,000 colonies per ml of escherichia coli?

Post 1

this dose not say what e Coli is!

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