Mysterious infections caused by EHEC pathogens

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Mysterious infections: EHEC pathogen causes bloody diarrhea

In northern Germany, dangerous infections with the EHEC bacterium (Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli) have increased. The Lower Saxony Ministry of Health has therefore urged all citizens suffering from bloody diarrhea to see a doctor urgently.

The Ministry of Health said on Friday that the number of reported EHEC infections has increased significantly since the beginning of last week. While the causes of the increased EHEC infections are still being sought, all residents are encouraged to seek medical treatment when the first symptoms appear. Because in addition to bloody diarrhea, there are serious health consequences, including life-threatening kidney failure.

Number of life-threatening EHEC infections increased significantly In general, infections with the life-threatening EHEC pathogen are rather rare in Germany. Around 1,200 diarrheal diseases caused by EHEC per year have been reported to the Robert Koch Institute on average in recent years. However, there are currently significantly more EHEC infections than usual in northern Germany. Health authorities are puzzled about possible causes. So far, according to the authorities, twelve cases of EHEC-related bloody diarrhea from different regions have been reported. Patients of all ages were infected. The search for the possible causes of EHEC infections is made considerably more difficult by the few matches among those affected, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health said. The health authorities are also concerned about the severe course that the disease has taken in most infected people. According to media reports, the patients treated in the intensive care units in the clinics in Hanover, Hamburg and Lüneburg are, or at least temporarily, in acute danger to life.

Symptoms of an EHEC infection: fever, vomiting diarrhea, kidney failure An infection with EHEC in the initial phase is characterized by symptoms such as fever and so-called vomiting diarrhea (gastroenteritis). As the disease progresses, the toxins from the bacteria can destroy the cells of the intestinal wall and blood vessels, causing bloody diarrhea. In addition, enteropathic hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) threatens with serious consequences for health. Because in the course of HUS, kidney failure and urinary poisoning or uraemia (urinary substances in the blood) are symptoms that occur relatively frequently. The only help for the patients is immediate dialysis, the experts explained. Therefore, according to the warning from the Lower Saxony Ministry of Health, those affected should seek treatment as soon as possible after the first signs of an EHEC infection appear.

Causes of EHEC Infections - Food Transmission? Eating raw meat and raw milk products is one of the possible causes of the occurrence of EHEC infections, since ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats form the main reservoir of the pathogen. EHEC infection can also trigger food, drinking and bathing water contaminated by animal faeces. Infections of ground beef, raw milk, unpasteurized apple juice and lettuce have been detected in the past. A direct transmission from animals to humans is also possible. In addition, the EHEC pathogens can be passed on from person to person after the onset of the disease. Those affected should therefore urgently seek treatment in the interests of their fellow human beings. (fp)

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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