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Bacterial gastroenteritis

Contents of this page:


Digestive system
Digestive system
Digestive system organs
Digestive system organs

Alternative Names    Return to top

Infectious diarrhea - bacterial gastroenteritis; Acute gastroenteritis; Gastroenteritis - bacterial

Definition    Return to top

Bacterial gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by bacteria.

See also:

Causes    Return to top

Many different types of bacteria can produce the symptoms associated with bacterial gastroenteritis, including:

Some sources of the infection are:

Risk factors are:

About 1 in 1,000 people develop bacterial gastroenteritis each year.

Symptoms    Return to top

Each organism causes slightly different symptoms but all result in diarrhea. Other symptoms include:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:

Treatment    Return to top

Treatment involves replacing fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) that the body loses when you have diarrhea. In rare cases, blood transfusions are required.

Self-care measures to avoid dehydration include:

Persons with diarrhea, especially young children, who are unable to drink fluids due to nausea may need medical attention and fluids by IV ( intravenously).

If you take "water pills" (diuretics), you may need to stop taking the medication during an acute episode of diarrhea, as directed by your health care provider.

Ask your doctor before using any antidiarrheal medicines.

Antibiotic or antimicrobial therapy is usually not needed unless the rest of the body is affected.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

In most cases, symptoms improve with fluid and electrolyte replacement within a week. Rare cases of kidney failure or death related to bacteria gastroenteritis have been reported.

There have been increasing incidents of local outbreaks of severe infection with certain strains of E. coli bacteria. These outbreaks can be dangerous, especially to the elderly or very young children.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

Prevention    Return to top

Proper handling, storage, and preparation of food -- in addition to good sanitation -- are principles of prevention.

References    Return to top

Zulfiqar AB. Acute Gastroenteritis in Children. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th Ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007. Chap: 337.

Update Date: 2/20/2008

Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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