Severe problems affecting the blood and kidneys may develop in a small
number of people (5% to 10%) infected with
E. coli O157:H7 who get sick enough to go to the
hospital.1 These problems include
anemia, a low number of
platelets in the blood, the formation of small blood
clots, and kidney (renal) failure.
Sometimes brain and spinal cord
(central nervous system) complications also develop.
Serious long-term damage to the kidneys and nervous system, as well as death,
This set of problems is known as either hemolytic
uremic syndrome (HUS) or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). These two
conditions are now thought to be different forms of the same disease.
Symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome or
thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura may include:
People who have been diagnosed with E. coli infection should be monitored carefully for these problems. This is
especially important for children and older adults. They should have blood and
urine tests rather than waiting for symptoms to develop. Monitoring should
begin as soon as the diagnosis is made and continue for 2 weeks after diarrhea
The following factors may put you at
higher-than-average risk of developing blood and kidney problems from
E. coli infection:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Escherichia coli. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/ecoli_o157h7/index.html.
May 29, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
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