Symptom, what is Escherichia coli?

The bacteria Escherichia coli or E. coli made headlines in 2022 after contaminating Buitoni pizzas and causing the deaths of two children. What symptoms should alert you? In which foods mainly? What must we do? What are the treatments?

Over there E.coli bacteria Or Escherichia Coli is present in the intestine of humans and certain animals. Certain tribe’s dangers can be found in food and cause serious infections. This pathogenic bacteria called “EHEC” colonizes the digestive tract of the patient and then releases toxins (Shiga toxins) that will induce vascular lesions at intestinal, renal and brain levels, which explains the clinical manifestations of kidney complications or neurological (hemolytic uremic syndrome (SHU) especially in young children Or thrombotic microangiopathy (MAT) in adults). In January 2022, several cases of SHU were confirmed in children who followed the consumption of frozen pizzas from Buitoni infected by E.coli bacteria that produce Shiga toxins. Two children died.

What is E.coli bacteria?

Escherichia Coli or “E.coli” is a bacteria present in the intestines of humans and certain animals, especially ruminants. It is useful to prevent other bacteria from colonizing the intestinal flora and causing disease. If they are in the intestine, most of its tribes are harmless and cause no symptoms. However, some are pathogens and cause intestinal disorders. E. coli bacteria may be the cause of urinary tract infections (cystitis). These mainly affect women due to their anatomy. Indeed, in women, the anus is close to the urinary tract, which is therefore easily colonized by bacteria. In rare cases, the bacteria can infect other organs, such as the vesicle gal. She can do it to cause meningitis in newborns.

What are EHEC bacteria?

To indicate the bacteria, we call it EHEC bacteria bacterium “Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia Coli”. This is a type of Escherichia coli bacteria pathogen that produces Shiga toxins. The most controlled in France in terms of nutrition are O157:H7, O26:H11, O103:H2, O145:H28 and O111:H8. EHEC colonizes the digestive tract of the patient and then releases toxins (Shiga toxins) that will induce vascular lesions at intestinal, renal and brain levels, which explains the clinical manifestations with renal or neurological complications (hemolytic and uremic syndrome (SHU) mainly in young children or thrombotic microangiopathy (MAT) in adults). THE populations with a higher than average chance of development symptoms or severe forms of the disease are children under 15 years old (especially under 5 years) and the elderly. The main reservoirs of these bacteria are cattle and sheep. “Contamination of food of animal origin occurs mainly in the meat slaughterhouse (skinning or evisceration of animals) or dairy farms during milking,” explains the French Food Agency (Handles). In France, surveillance of EHEC infections is based on surveillance of HUS cases in children under 15 years of age. It is coordinated by Public Health France. EHEC infections are microbiologically confirmed by the CNR and the associated laboratory.

What cooking temperature to kill E.coli bacteria?

ANSES recommends thoroughly cooking ground meat or ground meat products consumed by young children or the elderly: a core temperature of 70°C for 2 minutes must be achieved during cooking ground beef steaks. After cooking the inside of the steak should be grey-brown and in no case red or pink. This brownish-grey colour indicates that the core proteins are cooked, which also destroys bacteria possibly present such as EHEC.

► On the grill (+260°C): a frozen steak of 100 grams is “well done” after 13 minutes of cooking with 3 successive turns at regular intervals.

► Under the same conditions, a fresh or thawed steak is “well done” after 8 minutes of cooking.

Contamination of the intestines occurs via the fecal-oral route. Transmission to humans often occurs via meat that is contaminated and eaten raw or undercooked. The consumption of fruits and vegetables washed with polluted water, raw milk or swimming in polluted water, for example, can also be the cause of these infections. “A growing number of outbreaks are linked to the consumption of fruit and vegetables (sprouted seeds, spinach, lettuce, raw cabbage, salads) for which contamination may result from contact with faeces of domestic or wild animals at some stage of cultivation or handling” also reports WHO.

Mode of infection e.coli
Mode of infection by pathogenic E.coli bacteria (EHEC) © SMAC-Corsica

What is the incubation period?

The incubation period is 3 to 8 days average duration of 3 to 4 days.

What are the symptoms of an E. coli infection?

If swallowed this can lead to intestinal infections and therefore diarrhoea. This can sometimes be the case with blood associated with fever vomit stomach aches dehydration (the classic symptoms of gastroenteritis). In this case, please contact your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency department. The incubation period averages 4 days. Urinary infections as far as they are concerned, can be manifested by a frequent urge to urinate, pain in the lower abdomenburning sensation when urinating and the presence of blood in the urine.

What is the danger of the Escherichia coli bacteria?

Most patients recover from an Escherichia Coli infection within 10 days, but in some, the infection can develop into a serious, life-threatening form, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This is characterized by acute renal failure, hemolytic anaemia and thrombocytopenia. (decrease in platelets).

The diagnosis is based on a clinical evaluation (manifestations and symptoms of the disease, appearance of faeces), a cytobacteriological examination of urine as urinary tract infection (ECBU) (it is advisable to carefully apply the rules of preliminary disinfection of the urethral meatus and collect only the “middle of the jet”, not the first), a blood count, a blood ionogram, urea and creatinine values ​​(kidney damage) and possibly a blood culture in case of fever. Stool culture (stool analysis) is useful in persistent diarrhoea.

What are the treatments for Escherichia coli bacteria?

► In case of intestinal infection: Dehydration due to diarrhoea and vomiting can be very serious, especially in infants and the elderly. This is why this is the case in most cases only treatment is to drink plenty of water. If the symptoms affect a vulnerable person (child, elderly, chronically ill), if there is bloody diarrhoea or if they last more than two days, consult a doctor. This one can prescribe antibiotics if he deems it necessary. “E.coli is part of the balance of the intestinal microbiota under no circumstances should antibiotic prescribing be systematic due to the risk of disrupting the microbiota, the cause of numerous pathologies” advises doctor Anne-Christine Della Valle, general practitioner.

► In case of urinary tract infection: Consult your doctor at the first symptoms. He can prescribe antibiotics and/or give you advice to make the complaints disappear. The recommended treatment for uncomplicated cystitis in young women due to E. coli is fosfomycin orally in a single dose (“minute treatment”). Acquired resistance to fosfomycin remains rare, despite frequent use. This makes it possible to reduce the use of quinolones and cephalosporins that select strains resistant to these antibiotics useful in treating serious infections. The treatment of pyelonephritis and bacteremia appeals to Third-generation cephalosporins, with aminoglycosides or fluoroquinolones. The treatment of neonatal meningitis is based on the combination of a third-generation IV cephalosporin in high doses (meningeal doses) and an aminoglycoside.

As part of the prevention of hemolytic-uremic syndrome in children, Mainly two categories of foods are involved: minced meat and raw milk products. 

  • Over there minced meat by the butcher must be done on request and consumed during the day frozen chopped steaks must not have undergone any break in the cold chain or thawing.
  • Never thaw at room temperature.
  • Over there cooking meat especially ground beef, should be done thoroughly. To do this, you need to make sure that the meat is cooked in the centre and that it does so is no longer pink.
  • Raw milk and cheeses made from raw milk should not be consumed by young children in particular children under 5 years of age; prefer cooked pressed cheeses (such as Emmentaler, Comté, etc.), processed cheese spreads and pasteurized dairy cheeses.
  • Hand washing should be done systematically before preparing meals when leaving the toilet or after changing a baby’s diapers.
  • THE vegetables, fruits and aromatic herbs should be washed thoroughly, especially when eaten raw.
  • THE Ready-made meals and leftovers must be sufficiently heated and consumed quickly.
  • The children should not drink untreated water (spring water…)
  • Store raw foods separately from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Utensils and work surfaces should be washed thoroughly, especially if they have previously come into contact with raw meat.

To prevent urinary tract infections is recommended to drink at least 1.5 liters of water per day, wipe from front to back after bowel movements and urinate just before and after each intercourse.

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