Coliform Bacteria Infection In Humans: Symptoms & Treatment

Gastrointestinal tract infection and urinary tract infection is one of the important causes of morbidity in humans. Most of these infections are caused by bacteria. Coliform bacterial infection is caused by a group of bacteria belonging to Enterobacteriaceae family. They are gram negative bacteria inhabiting in human colon and in intestine of other warm blooded animals.

Common coliform bacteria include E. coli, Klebseiella enterobacter and K. serratia. Because these bacteria are present in human colon, they are found in human feces.

Coliform bacteria can contaminate soil and water due to poor sanitation. Those present in soil are called total coliform and those present in feces are referred as fecal coliform.  Of all the coliform species, E. coli bacteria are most dangerous. E. coli can cause serious form of diarrhea as well as urinary tract infection. Other coliform bacteria can also become pathogenic, but they usually cause milder infection.

Signs And Symptoms Of Coliform Bacteria Infection

Generally the quality of water is tested by presence of total and fecal coliform colony count.

This gives an indication if water is contaminated. If there is large number of coliform colony, sanitarians are able alert people about possible danger of drinking this water. It is also helpful for them to suggest people to take remedial measures for removing the harmful bacteria from water.

As mentioned earlier, all coliform bacteria are not as virulent as E. coli to cause severe gastrointestinal or urinary tract disease. Consuming contaminated water or food by certain strain of E. coli such as 0157:H7 can result in host of symptoms concerning digestive and urinary tract. Immune compromised person is more susceptible to develop coliform bacterial infection when exposed to contaminated food or water.

Following are important symptoms:

Gastrointestinal symptoms:

  • Diarrhea that can be watery or bloody. It usually depends on the virulence of specific organism.
  • Cramps in abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal distension
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle pain and body ache.
  • Cold and clammy skin due to dehydration.
  • Giddiness and headache in case if diarrhea is severe.

Urinary tract infection:

coli can cause moderate to severe infection if it colonizes in other organs of body such as urinary tract:

  • Burning sensation while passing urine.
  • Frequent urge to urinate.
  • Pus in urine
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

How Do You Get Coliform Bacteria Infection?

Coliform bacterial infection is mainly transmitted through feco-oral route. Although all species of colifrom do not cause symptoms, there are certain virulent species that may cause devastating health problem in a person. Since coliform organism is present in colon, it is passed into feces. When feces contaminate water or food due to poor sanitation, it can spread disease. As you know by now, E. coli bacteria are aggressive bacteria and its infection can cause severe health repercussion.

Drinking or eating food contaminated with E. coli or any other virulent strain of coliform organism can cause coliform infection. An infected person who has not washed his hands properly after defecation can spread infection to others if he handles food and water. In this way the germs can get transferred into meat and other food items. This food if undercooked or eaten raw can cause coliform infection. Even eating raw and unwashed fruits and vegetables can become source of infection. Coliform bacterial infection can occur in any individual and at any age.

Coliform Bacteria Treatment In Humans

The most important concern regarding coliform infection is diarrhea; especially if the causative organism is E. coli bacteria. In diarrheal illness, primary aim of treatment is to replenish lost fluids and maintain electrolyte balance. Patient must consume oral re-hydration solution freely. Breast fed infants must be continued breast feeding.

Since E. coli infection is self limiting, often the role of antibiotics is of second importance to rehydration therapy. Patient is often prescribed antibiotics to shorten the course of illness and prevent complications. Antibiotics destroy the coliform organism and hence further multiplication is stopped. Patient must drink boiled water and drink properly cooked food. He must also take other precautions such as washing his hands with soap and water after defecation to prevent spread of bacteria.