E. coli is the name of a type of bacteria that lives in your intestines. Most types of E. coli are harmless. However, some types can make you sick and cause diarrhea. One type causes travelers' diarrhea. The worst type of E. coli causes bloody diarrhea, and can sometimes cause kidney failure and even death. These problems are most likely to occur in children and in adults with weak immune systems.
You can get E. coli infections by eating foods containing the bacteria. Symptoms of infection include
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Watery or very bloody diarrhea
To help avoid food poisoning and prevent infection, handle food safely. Cook meat well, wash fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking them, and avoid unpasteurized milk and juices. You can also get the infection by swallowing water in a swimming pool contaminated with human waste.
Most cases of E. coli infection get better without treatment in 5 to 10 days.
NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
- U.S. Making Headway Against Salmonella, E. Coli: CDC (05/14/2015, HealthDay)
- E. coli Symptoms (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
- Basic Information about E. Coli 0157:H7 in Drinking Water (Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water)
- CDC Vital Signs: Making Health Care Safer (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Farm Animals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Ground Beef and Food Safety (Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service)
- Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
Statistics and Research
- CDC Vital Signs: Making Food Safer to Eat (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Escherichia coli Infections (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Defining pathogenic verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) from cases of human...
- Article: Multidrug resistant pathogenic Escherichia coli status in water sources and...
- Article: Resistance plasmids in ESBL-encoding Escherichia coli isolates from humans, dogs...
- E. Coli Infections -- see more articles
- E. Coli and hemolytic-uremic syndrome -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
- Partnership for Food Safety Education
- Report a Problem with Food (Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service)
- E. Coli and Pregnancy (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) - PDF