E. coli 0157:H7 (Escherichia coli 0157:H7 infection)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

woman with abdominal pain

Is E. coli Contagious?

Some E. coli bacteria are contagious while others are not, depending on the E. coli strain and/or the infection type.

Some strains can be transmitted person-to-person by contaminated water or food, usually by the oral/fecal route such as

  • contaminated meat (raw or undercooked),
  • unpasteurized milk, and
  • raw fruits and vegetables.

Quick GuideFood Poisoning: 20 Common and Uncommon Types, Signs and Symptoms

Food Poisoning: 20 Common and Uncommon Types, Signs and Symptoms

E. coli facts

  • Serotype E. coli 0157:H7 is a bacterium that can produce bloody diarrhea due to toxins, especially Shiga (Vero) toxin that it produces, it is secreted when the bacterium infects the human intestine.
  • Other E. coli serotypes like 0145 or 0104:H4 can act like 0157:H7 if they acquire the ability to produce Shiga (Vero) toxin.
  • The early symptoms of E. coli 0157:H7 infection may include:
  • Later symptoms of E. coli infection may include:
  • E. coli infection is contagious and can be spread from person to person by fecal contamination.
  • E. coli 0157:H7 is notorious because it can cause additional complications in children and the elderly; renal failure, anemia, and dehydration especially for children (termed HUS or hemolytic uremic syndrome) and spontaneous bleeding, organ failure, and mental changes in the elderly (termed TTP or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura). Some of these patients develop permanent disabilities or die.
  • E. coli 0157:H7 infections that produce late and/or severe symptoms may require a team of specialists to treat the patient
  • Diagnosis is definitively made when E. coli 0157:H7 is isolated, usually from the patient's stool, and identified as serotype 0157 with immunologic tests.
  • Most E. coli 0157:H7 infections resolve spontaneously and require no treatment. However supportive treatment is required quickly required if the patient becomes dehydrated, anemic, or develops HUS or TTP.
  • The majority of E. coli 0157:H7 infections have excellent outcomes. If complications develop such as severe dehydration, anemia, HUS or TTP, the outcomes can decline from good to poor quickly.
  • Infection with E. coli 0157:H7 usually comes from eating contaminated food. Prevention of infection consists of eating well cooked foods, especially hamburger, and drinking treated or pasteurized fluids. Avoiding touching or eating any food that may be contaminated with any animal or human waste will help prevent the infection.
  • There is no E. coli 0157:H7 vaccine available for humans.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/3/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • E. Coli - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you experience with your E. coli infection?

    Post View 18 Comments
  • E. Coli - Treatments

    What treatment has been effective for your E. coli infection?

    Post View 3 Comments
  • E. coli - Experience

    How did you get E. coli infection?

    Post
  • E. coli - Transmission

    If known, how did you get E. coli infection?

    Post
  • E. coli 0157:H7 - Complications

    What complications did you or someone you know suffer from E. coli 0157:H7 infection?

    Post

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors