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May 4, 2015

E. Coli and Kidney Problems

Sometimes a person’s kidneys are adversely affected not just by their own lifestyle, but by illnesses they have little control over. One example was recently discussed in an article in the online version of the British Medical Journal. Several researchers analyzed information from the Walkerton Health Study. This study followed the  health of citizens of the Canadian town of Walkerton, Ontario, after their municipal water system was infected with E. coli O157:H7 in May of 2000. Almost two thousand people who had contracted gastroenteritis at the time were monitored for several years.

The results indicated a higher likelihood of experiencing high blood pressure, heart problems, and renal impairment for those who had been infected and developed gastroenteritis symptoms than for those who had not. The risk of high blood pressure was 1.3 times higher, the chance of having either a stroke or heart attack was almost twice as high, and the likelihood of kidney problems was about three times higher.

This analysis is not only pertinent in cases like that of Walkerton, in which E. coli contamination hits an entire community. Most warmblooded organisms have forms of E. coli in their systems, and it is also found in many environments. Most strains are not harmful, but those like O157:H7 can be deadly. The presence of E. coli  often indicates fecal contamination, yet it also enters an environment in other ways.

What this means is that people can contract gastroenteritis from E. coli in ways apart from disasters like that which struck Walkerton. So for those who do encounter these bacteria, whether through mass contamination or in less obvious ways, it is important to monitor their health carefully from that point on. As well as being at a higher risk for blood pressure or heart problems, they will need to be on the watch for potential kidney problems as well.

(Further reading: British Medical Journal, reference BMJ 2010; 341:c6020, November 17, 2010; Medical News Today, November 21, 2010)

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