DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic Staff
Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Most varieties of E. coli are harmless or cause relatively brief diarrhea. But a few particularly nasty strains, such as E. coli O157:H7, can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.
You may be exposed to E. coli from contaminated water or food — especially raw vegetables and undercooked ground beef. Healthy adults usually recover from infection with E. coli O157:H7 within a week, but young children and older adults have a greater risk of developing a life-threatening form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Aug. 01, 2014
- E. coli (Escherichia coli). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/general/index.html. Accessed June 10, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed June 10, 2014.
- Calderwood SB. Microbiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology and prevention of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). http://www.uptodate.com/home/. Accessed June 10, 2014.
- Ryan KJ, et al., eds. Sherris Medical Microbiology. 5th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2010. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=375&Sectionid=40299161. Accessed June 10, 2014.
- Basic information about E. coli O157:H7 in drinking water. Environmental Protection Agency. http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/ecoli.cfm. Accessed June10, 2014.
- Bain R, et al. Global assessment of exposure to faecal contamination through drinking water based on a systematic review. Tropical Medicine and International Health. In press. Accessed June 10, 2014.
- Calderwood SB. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis and treatment of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 10, 2014.
- What I need to know about diarrhea. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/diarrhea_ez/index.aspx. Accessed June 10, 2014.