A number of things can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, but the most common cause — particularly in children — is an infection with a specific strain of E. coli, usually the strain known as O157:H7. However, other strains of E. coli have been linked to hemolytic uremic syndrome, too.

E. coli refers to a group of bacteria normally found in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. Of the hundreds of types of E. coli, most are harmless. But some strains of E. coli are responsible for serious foodborne infections, including those that can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome. E. coli may be found in:

  • Contaminated meat or produce
  • Swimming pools or lakes contaminated with feces

Most people who are infected with E. coli, even the more dangerous strains, won't develop hemolytic uremic syndrome. It's also possible for hemolytic uremic syndrome to follow infection with other types of bacteria.

In adults, hemolytic uremic syndrome is more commonly caused by other factors, including:

  • The use of certain medications, such as quinine (an over-the-counter muscle cramp remedy), some chemotherapy drugs, the immunosuppressant medication cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) and anti-platelet medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain infections, such as HIV/AIDS or an infection with the pneumococcal bacteria
  • Genes, which can be a factor because a certain type of HUS — atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome — may be passed down from your parents

The cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome in adults is often unknown.

Jul. 03, 2013