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
- 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.
July 03, 2013
- Niaudet P. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Shiga toxin associated (typical) hemolytic uremic syndrome in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2013.
- Tintinalli JE, et al. Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=40. Accessed May 26, 2013.
- Bavaro MF. E. coli O157:H7 and other toxigenic strains: The curse of global food distribution. Current Gastroenterology Reports. 2012;14:317.
- Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) and hemolytic-uremic syndrome. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec11/ch133/ch133g.html. Accessed May 26, 2013.
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome in children. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse . http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/childkidneydiseases/hemolytic_uremic_syndrome/. Accessed May 21, 2013.
- Bielaszewska M, et al. Enterohemorrhagic escherichia coli O26:H11/H-: A new virulent clone emerges in Europe. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2013;56:1373.
- George JN. Causes of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura-hemolytic uremic syndrome in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2013.
- Elliott MM, et al. Interventions for haemolytic uraemic syndrome and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003595.pub2/abstract. Accessed May 26, 2013.
- Food safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/facts.html. Accessed May 26, 2013.
- Niaudet P. Treatment and prognosis of Shiga toxin associated (typical) hemolytic uremic syndrome in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2013.
- Niaudet P. Atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2013.
- Nester CM, et al. Atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome: What is it, how is it diagnosed, and how is it treated? Hematology. 2012;2012:617.
- Ground beef and food safety. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/ground_beef_and_food_safety/. Accessed May 28, 2013.
- Hunt JM. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). Clinics in Laboratory Medicine. 2010;30:21.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.