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E. coli: Escherichia coli 0157:H7, E. coli 0157:H7 (cont.)

E. coli 0157:H7 Complications

About 10% of all persons infected with E. coli 0157:H7 develop some complication. These complications may lead to disability or death. The major complications are as follows:

  • Hemorrhagic (bloody) diarrhea: This complication can prolong the disease by about a week, and cause severe abdominal pain. The individual may also develop dehydration and anemia.
  • Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS): This condition also prolongs the disease as it usually becomes apparent about 7 to 10 days after the onset of symptoms. Children under 10 years of age are the most likely to get this complication; HUS is the most common cause of renal failure in children. The toxin produced by E. coli 0157:H7 enters the blood, causing blood cells to be damaged and small clots to form. The toxin can lodge in the kidneys and eventually destroy renal tissue; sometimes the damage is severe enough to cause kidney failure.
  • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP): This complication is a variation of HUS that usually occurs in the elderly. The same mechanisms as those for HUS are responsible for TTP. However, the elderly develop more clotting problems and use up more platelets resulting in easy or "spontaneous" bruising over the body. The elderly experience more fever and neurologic changes, in addition to kidney damage. Until the 1980's, TTP was considered a fatal disease. However, treatment with plasma exchange and infusion techniques has reduced the mortality rate (deaths) to about 10%.
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