The Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (HUS) is the leading cause of sudden kidney failure in young children.
HUS is characterized by kidney failure and a low red blood cell count (anemia) due to the rupturing of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia). The disease can lead to permanent loss of kidney function. Patients then require dialysis in order to survive.
Some victims of E Coli food poisoning, particularly the very young, have developed (HUS). Many of you are already familiar with the epidemics of "food poisoning" due to undercooked hamburger meat or the midwest dairy disaster. The common denominator here is the development of a "Hemorrhagic Colitis" (bleeding from inflammation of the colon) caused by a particular strain of E. Coli bacteria which has contaminated the food. Up to 15% of hemorrhagic colitis victims may develop HUS. So...no more rare hamburgers!!
HUS occurs in adults as well, sometimes together with gastrointestinal infection (Hemorrhagic E.Coli) and bloody diarrhea. This illness can have a death rate in the elderly as high as 50%.
HUS, plus two other symptoms, fever and neurologic symptoms, constitutes thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). In TTP, the blood clots inappropriately and is associated with a decrease in the number of blood clotting elements (platelets). Other forms of HUS in adults are related to pregnancy, the postpartum state, oral- contraceptive use, severely elevated blood pressure (hypertension), cancer and chemotherapy, transplantation and cyclosporine therapy, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Rarely, HUS can occur in families (familial form). In some cases, the cause of HUS is not known.
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Portions of the above information is in part from the New England Journal of Medicine Editorial- August 29, 1996-- Volume 335, Number 9. "Escherichia coli and the Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome".
Last Editorial Review: 10/23/2002