What is E. coli?

E. coli is the name of a bacterium that lives in your intestines and in the intestines of animals. Although most types of E. coli are harmless, some types can make you sick.
Patricia Raymond, MD
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterial pathogen that causes moderate to severe illness that begins as large amounts of watery diarrhea and then turns into bloody diarrhea. There are many different types of this bacterium. The worst strain can cause kidney failure and death (about 3% to 5% of all cases). It is transmitted by eating raw or undercooked hamburger, unpasteurized milk or juices, or contaminated well water.
Leigh Vinocur, MD
Emergency Medicine
E coli is a bacterium that lives in the intestines of animals and people. Many strains don’t cause disease inside the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, but can be harmful outside of it. However there are pathogenic (disease causing) strains that can cause illness inside the intestines, non-pathogenic E Coli is a major cause of traveler’s diarrhea (40-60% of cases.) It is primarily caused from unsanitary conditions where human or animal fecal contamination occurs. Drinking contaminated water infects individuals, as well as using ice made from that water or eating unpeeled fruit washed with contaminated water.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.