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Advice for Patients
January 5, 2009

Escherichia coli O157 and Children

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163(1):96. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2008.535

Escherichia coli is a common bacterium that is normally present in the human intestine. There are many different types, or strains, of E coli that infect many types of animals and most strains are harmless. A few strains can cause illness. These strains are often found in animals such as cattle, goats, and sheep and do not cause illness in these animals. The most common cause of E coli infection in humans is ingesting contaminated food or water or having contact with infected animals.

The strain of E coli that causes the most serious illness in humans is a strain called E coli O157:H7, sometimes called E coli O157. The people most at risk for infection with this strain of E coli are the very young and very old, but anyone can become ill if infected. Rates of E coli O157 have gone down in recent decades; there are around 70 000 infections with E coli O157 each year in the United States. The most important risk factor for this illness is bloody diarrhea.