E. coli Verotoxin (Shiga) is caused by specific strains of the Escherichia coli bacteria that release toxins known as Shiga or Vero toxins. The terms “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)”, “verocytotoxic E. coli (VTEC)”, and “enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC)” all generally refer to the same group of bacteria.

E. coli producing these toxinscan be found throughout North and South America, Europe, and Asia, and infection rates tend to be highest during the summer months. In healthy adults, E. coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infections are rarely serious and typically last only several days. However, infections can be serious or even fatal in infants, young children, and the elderly.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of E. coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infection.

  1. How do people get E. Coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infections? E. coli Vero (Shiga) spreads through the fecal-oral route, when feces contaminated with the bacteria are accidentally ingested. This can occur after handling animals or their feces, changing diapers, etc. The infection can also be food- and water-borne. Unpasteurized (raw) milk, unpasteurized apple cider, and soft cheese made from raw milk carry a higher change of infection, but the bacteria can also be spread through undercooked meat, unwashed produce, or contaminated water.
  2. What are the symptoms of E. Coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infections? Symptoms of E. coli Vero (Shiga) vary but can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and high fever (hemorrhagic colitis). More rarely, the infections can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition in which infected red blood cells clog and damage the kidneys. Symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome include decreased frequency of urination, fatigue, and a loss of color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.
    If you experience diarrhea that lasts for more than three days or that is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, excessive vomiting, and infrequent urination, you should contact your doctor immediately.
  3. How is E. Coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infections diagnosed? E. coli Vero (Shiga) infection is most commonly diagnosed through laboratory testing of potentially infected stool samples. These tests look for the presence of specific E. coli antigens.
  4. What is the typical treatment for E. Coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infections? There is no specific treatment for E. coli Vero (Shiga); the infection will typically run its course without treatment within 5-7 days. During recovery, people with E. coli should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration; in severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting, if a person cannot keep liquids down, intravenous hydration may become necessary. E. coli should not be treated with antibiotics or with over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications, as these may increase the risk of developing HUS.
    If E. coli Vero (Shiga) infection does progress to HUS, treatment may include intravenous fluids, blood transfusion, or temporary dialysis.
  5. How can I prevent E. Coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infections? Proper hygiene is key in preventing the spread of E. coli. Make sure to wash your hands properly after using the toilet, changing a child’s diaper, picking up animal feces, patting or handling animals, or handling any potentially contaminated objects; make sure to teach children proper handwashing techniques. In addition, always practice proper food preparation and handling procedures, including thoroughly washing all raw produce and cooking meat to safe temperatures. Avoid raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products and juices, and avoid swallowing water when swimming in lakes, ponds, streams, or pools.
  6. What kinds of diagnostic tests are used to test for E. Coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infections? To diagnose E. coli Verotoxin (Shiga) infection, your doctor will most likely collect a stool sample to test for E. coli antigens.One such antigen test is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), like the IVD E. coli Vero(Shiga) Toxin Stool Antigen Detection Microwell ELISA.This test provides precise, rapid diagnosis of E. Coli infection.

References

Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (n.d.). “E. coli (Escherichia coli)”. Available at
https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/general/index.html.

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). “Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)”. Available at
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hemolytic-uremic-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352405.

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