What causes bacterial digestive infections?

Bacterial digestive infections are most commonly caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli (E coli), Salmonella, and Shigella. Campylobacter is another type of bacteria that can cause infection of the gastrointestinal tract. The bacteria are present in the stool (feces) of infected people and animals. When water sources are contaminated with feces containing the pathogen, drinking from these water sources spreads the bacteria. Swimming in contaminated water may also result in contracting a bacterial digestive infection. For this reason, bacterial digestive infections occur most frequently in people traveling in developing countries or in children who touch infected human or animal feces without proper hand washing. Birds and insects can also carry the infectious bacteria to humans.

Listeria monocytogenes, another type of digestive infection-causing bacteria, has been found in raw and undercooked meats, unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, and ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs. Vibrio is a bacterium that can contaminate fish or shellfish and Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that can contaminate improperly canned foods and smoked and salted fish.

What are the risk factors for bacterial digestive infections?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing bacterial digestive infections. Not all people with risk factors will get bacterial digestive infections. Risk factors for bacterial digestive infections include:

  • Attendance or work in a day care setting
  • Close contact with an infected person or animal
  • Consumption of untreated water from lakes, rivers or streams
  • Fecal to oral contact
  • Travel in countries where the infection is common
  • Use of public swimming pools

Reducing your risk of bacterial digestive infections

You can lower your risk of developing or transmitting bacterial digestive infections by:

  • Drinking only purified water when backpacking, camping or hiking
  • Drinking only purified water when visiting developing countries
  • Not swallowing water in swimming pools, hot tubs, or other recreational water sources
  • Using purified water for brushing your teeth and washing food when visiting developing countries
  • Washing your hands well with soap and water after touching feces, having contact with an infected person or animal, changing diapers, or using the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food

INTRODUCTION

What are bacterial digestive infections?

Bacterial digestive infections are diseases that affect the digestive organs as a result of ingesting of infectious bacterial organisms. Infectious bacteria scientifically known as Escherichia coli (E coli), Salmonella, and Shigella are among the most common causes of bacterial digestive infections. Each of these infections causes Read more about bacterial digestive infectionsintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of bacterial digestive infections?

Bacterial digestive infections cause irritation and inflammation of the intestines that may result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of bacterial digestive infections

The most common symptoms of bacterial digestive infections are related to disturbances of the digestive system and include:

    Read more about bacterial digestive infectionssymptoms

TREATMENTS

How are bacterial digestive infections treated?

Treatment for bacterial digestive infections begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have a bacterial digestive infection, your health care provider may ask you to provide stool samples for laboratory tests.

Antibiotic therapy is the mainstay of treatment for bacterial digestive infections and is highly effective. It is important that y... Read more about bacterial digestive infectionstreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 24, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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