E. coli is the name of a germ, or bacterium, that lives in your intestines. There are many types of E. coli, and most of them are harmless and don't cause problems. But other types of E. coli can cause illness.
Some types of E. coli, including E. coli O157:H7, can cause bloody diarrhea and cramps.
Some other types of E. coli can cause urinary tract infections or other infections. A urinary tract infection is an infection anywhere along the path between the kidneys and the urethra (where urine comes out of your body).
Sometimes E. coli that is normally harmless gets into parts of your body where it's not supposed to be, such as your urine or blood. This can cause an infection, such as a urinary tract infection or a blood infection.
A urinary tract infection often remains in the bladder, but the infection can sometimes spread to the kidneys and blood. This condition is very serious.
Usually, germs get into your system through your urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body. The bacteria that usually cause these infections live in your large intestine and are found in your stool.
Women tend to get more bladder infections than men do. This is probably because a woman has a shorter urethra, so it is easier for the bacteria to move up to the bladder. Having sex can make it easier for germs to get into your urethra.
People in Canada most often get an infection from E. coli that causes bloody diarrhea and cramps by eating meat or other foods that have been contaminated with the bacteria.
If E. coli causes an infection in the urinary tract, you may have symptoms like:
If you get the E. coli O157:H7 infection from food, you may have symptoms like:
E. coli in the blood can cause a serious blood infection.
An E. coli infection of the urinary tract or blood is treated with antibiotics. For a blood infection, the antibiotics are usually given through a vein (intravenously, or IV).
An infection from types of E. coli that cause bloody diarrhea and cramps, such as E. coli O157:H7, is usually treated with fluids to help you stay hydrated. And you may get other medical care. Antibiotics aren't typically used to treat this kind of E. coli.
Tips for women:
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter Y224 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About E. Coli Infections".
Current as of: March 3, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
© 2006-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.