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EHEC infection: From barely noticeable to very life-threatening symptoms
Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) are a relatively widespread bacterium and cause different symptoms depending on the course of the disease. The main reservoir of the germs is ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats. The pathogens are usually ingested by humans through food, but transmission from person to person is also possible after the outbreak of the EHEC infection. So far, three deaths from EHEC infection have been reported. So far, over 300 people have been infected. It is still unclear which food or drink the EHEC bacteria spread.
Significant EHEC symptoms The essential symptoms of dangerous EHEC infections are watery, bloody diarrhea-like bowel movements, usually accompanied by severe cramping abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting. However, the various complications can be accompanied by a variety of other symptoms such as kidney pain, increased liver function tests and urinary poisoning (uraemia). According to the experts from the Robert Koch Institute and the nationwide health authorities, a doctor should be consulted immediately if the first symptoms appear, since serious health problems are threatened by the EHEC infection.
Transmission of EHEC pathogens
In most cases, the EHEC pathogens are transmitted to humans via contaminated food. The consumption of raw meat and raw milk products is considered a possible source of infection, as is food, drinking and bathing water contaminated by faeces from ruminants. Infections of ground beef, raw milk, unpasteurized apple juice, vegetables, lettuce and sprouts have already been detected. The health authorities warn that the pathogens can also pass directly from animals to humans. After the outbreak of EHEC-related bloody diarrheal disease, transmission from person to person is also possible. The first signs of an EHEC infection may appear around two to eight days after contact with the pathogens.
Bloody diarrhea The main symptom of the EHEC infection The symptoms of the EHEC infection can be very different. While only normal vomiting diarrhea often occurs in the case of a shallow disease, severe EHEC infection threatens to cause significant health problems, such as enterohaemorrhagic colitis (inflammation of the intestine caused by EHEC) or hemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). Both diseases can be accompanied by a variety of serious symptoms and life-threatening consequences for those affected. The typical symptoms of enterohaemorrhagic colitis are bloody, extremely watery bowel movements, painful abdominal cramps and increased inflammation in the blood. The toxins of the EHEC pathogens destroy the blood vessels and can cause tissue bleeding, as a result of which platelets (platelets) are activated for blood clotting and used at the damaged tissue site. Enterohaemorrhagic colitis is often accompanied by a reduction in the number of platelets (thrombopenia) in the body, which can lead to impaired wound healing.
EHEC causes the haemolytic-uraemic syndrome The haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS) in turn also causes a number of significant health impairments. The typical symptoms are also internal bleeding caused by endothelial damage (wall layer of the blood vessels), especially in the area of the renal arteries. This is usually associated with so-called anemia, which in turn can lead to a deficient oxygen supply to the whole body and which is often characterized by a massive drop in performance and signs of fatigue. In addition, an oxygen-related headache, impaired consciousness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), nausea, difficulty concentrating, insomnia and visual disturbances are possible consequences of anemia. The lack of oxygen can also lead to minimal excretion of blood in the urine and easy protein excretion (proteinuria). In addition, accelerated breathing (tachypnea) and an increased heartbeat (tachycardia) are possible consequences of the anemia that occurs in the course of HUS. If the course is severe, the hemolytic-uremic syndrome can also trigger acute kidney failure, which in turn can have life-threatening consequences.
Kidney failure as a result of the EHEC infection
Acute kidney failure as a result of HUS is one of the most serious consequences of EHEC infection. Kidney failure causes regulation problems in the fluid, electrolyte and acid-base balance, which can lead to disorders in the excretion of urinary substances (e.g. creatinine). The end products of protein metabolism (e.g. urea) and other urinary substances remain in the organism and there is a risk of life-threatening urine poisoning or uraemia (urinary substances in the blood). In the worst case, the poisoning causes multiple organ failure, which often leads to the death of the patient. Permanent damage to the kidneys (terminal renal failure) can also be triggered by the HUS, whereby the kidney does not recover even after surviving EHEC infection. In cases of doubt, patients can only be helped by a kidney transplant or they are dependent on dialysis (blood cleansing) for a lifetime. Dialysis is also the only treatment method that offers a promising therapeutic approach for the occurrence of urinary substances in the blood due to HUS. (fp)
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