E coli treatment
Are antibiotics safe for treating an E. coli infection?
The bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli ) can cause a number of different illnesses, depending on where the infection occurs.
E. coli may be best known for causing food poisoning. or intestinal infections that occur after you ingest food or drink that’s been contaminated with a pathogenic (disease-causing) strain of E. coli .
The E. coli that causes intestinal infections falls into several different broad categories.
In the United States, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. or STEC, causes the most illnesses, and one STEC strain known as O157 is responsible for over one-third of those cases.
Treating an Intestinal E. Coli Infection
Treatment for your E. coli intestinal infection involves resting and drinking a lot of water to replenish fluids lost from diarrhea and vomiting.
Antibiotics aren't recommended because they can triple your risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a disease in which Shiga toxin destroys red blood cells and platelets (which assist in blood clotting), eventually causing kidney failure, according to a 2012 article in the journal Toxins.
Antimotility (antidiarrheal) medications may also increase your risk of developing HUS, according to a 2011 article in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
However, antibiotics and antimotility agents may be useful for other types of E. coli. such as enterotoxigenic E. coli. which causes traveler's diarrhea.
In the absence of severe symptoms, such as bloody diarrhea or intense abdominal pain, some doctors believe it’s acceptable to use antimotility medication.
Treating Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)
About 5 to 15 percent of STEC infections lead to the life-threatening syndrome HUS, which is more common among young children. the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, the Toxins article notes.
If you have HUS, you will initially experience symptoms similar to your E. coli intestinal infection, including vomiting, fatigue, and bloody diarrhea.
Left untreated, HUS can cause numerous skin symptoms, such as bruising, petechia (red or purple spots on the skin), pale skin, and jaundice. Other signs of HUS include decreased urination and, sometimes, seizures.
HUS requires prompt medical treatment. This may include:
- IV fluid and electrolyte replacement
- Red blood cell transfusion
- Platelet transfusion (to help the blood clot normally)
- Kidney dialysis to temporarily take over your kidney's job of filtering waste and extra fluid from the body
If your kidneys become permanently damaged, you may need to switch to a low-protein diet and take medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which lower your blood pressure to help prevent further kidney damage.
You may also need long-term dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Treating Urinary Tract Infections
Infection with E. coli doesn't just cause foodborne illnesses. Some strains of the bacteria are a normal part of microbial communities in your gut, but can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI) if they make their way into your urinary system.
Doctors typically treat UTIs with a wide range of different antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim) .
However, some strains of E. coli. called extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) E. coli. are resistant to most antibiotic treatments.
There are now only a few classes of oral antibiotics that remain effective at treating UTIs from ESBL E. coli. such as fosfomycin (Monural) and nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) .
- Nelson et al. (2011). "Antimicrobial and Antimotility Agent Use in Persons with Shiga Toxin–Producing Escherichia coli O157 Infection in FoodNet Sites." Clinical Infectious Diseases .
- Travelers' Diarrhea; CDC .
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS); Mayo Clinic .
- Auer et al. (2010). "Oral Treatment Options for Ambulatory Patients with Urinary Tract Infections Caused by Extended-Spectrum-