E. coli increases risk of diabetes, especially in children

Infection with the pathogen E. coli O157:H7 leads to complications that increase the risk of diabetes particularly in children, according to a recent report in Food Safety News.

Ingesting E. coli O157:H7 bacteria produces Shiga toxin that damages the kidney. This leads to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in 2 to 7 percent of all cases.

The toxin can also damage the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and cause insulin deficiency.

Children with extreme cases of HUS who are on dialysis are the most likely to develop diabetes, according to Food Safety News. In addition, those children tend to develop diabetes quickly, within 14 days of their initial hospitalization for HUS.

About 90 percent of all HUS cases in children stem from gastroenteritis with bloody diarrhea associated with E. coli O157:H7 infection.

According to the article, one study followed 44 children who developed diabetes following an acute case of HUS. Ten of those children died. One-third of the remaining 34 survivors developed persistent or permanent diabetes.

Relapse of HUS can occur up to 5 years after the initial severe infection, with long-term diabetes potentially developing from the relapse event. Scientists recommend long-term follow up of patients with HUS to monitor for recurrences and complications such as diabetes.

Risk for all age groups
Patients of all ages with diarrhea-associated HUS have a significantly increased incidence of diabetes due to complete insulin deficiency, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the US National Library of Medicine.

Gastroenteritis without HUS is a less severe infection from E. coli O157:H7 that does not appear to result in an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to the NCBI.

While people of any age can become ill with HUS, very young children and elderly people are more likely to develop severe illness and HUS than others.

Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a diverse group of bacteria. Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but others can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, pneumonia, and other illnesses.

E. coli O157:H7 is a common cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in North America, according to the National Centers for Disease Control.

E. coli is spread through ingestion of human or animal feces. Some common causes of exposure include eating contaminated food, drinking unpasturized milk or apple cider, drinking non-disinfected water, and contacting cattle or diapers.

Sources: Food Safety News, National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Centers for Disease Control

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