Children are particularly susceptible to complications due to some types of food poisoning.
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Escherichia coli and Salmonella are bacteria that inhabit the intestines of many animal species, including humans. Most of the trillions of bacteria living in your gastrointestinal tract don't cause disease and are, in fact, necessary for optimal health. However, some strains of E. coli and salmonella are highly pathogenic and can cause serious disease. Severe cases of food poisoning due to E. coli and Salmonella may cause organ damage, including kidney damage.
Pathogenic strains of E. coli and Salmonella gain entry to your body through your mouth. Undercooked meat is a common means of transmission, but contaminated water and eggs, or exposure to feces from infected people or animals are additional sources. Once the bacteria enter your intestine, they multiply and produce toxins, which damage the lining of your intestine and trigger the diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain that characterize food-borne illnesses. While most people recover from food poisoning within a few days, both E. coli and Salmonella may enter your bloodstream, where their toxins can damage your kidneys and other organs.
If Salmonella penetrates your intestinal wall and enters your bloodstream, it can trigger a potentially life-threatening disease. While many strains of Salmonella can cause invasive disease, typhoid fever due to Salmonella typhi is a classic example. About 2 to 3 percent of patients with typhoid fever develop kidney complications, according to a 2005 case report in Internal Medicine. Renal damage can occur in many ways: The toxins can cause direct injury to the kidneys' delicate filtering units; antibodies and other immune molecules can accumulate within the organs; or proteins from damaged skeletal muscles can plug the kidney tubules and damage them.
Pathogenic E. coli
Like Salmonella, pathogenic strains of E. coli can cause life-threatening illness. Kidney damage is a fairly common result of infection by so-called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, particularly in children. According to a 2005 review in Pediatrics, about 15 percent of children infected by E. coli O157:H7 - a frequent cause of severe food poisoning - develop hemolytic uremic syndrome. Hemolytic uremic syndrome is characterized by blood clotting abnormalities, bruising and kidney failure. Some patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome require long-term dialysis.
In addition to their toxins that cause organ damage, pathogenic bacteria circulating through your bloodstream can "seed" to your kidneys, where they form abscesses. These abscesses, which are pockets of bacteria and dead white blood cells, usually require surgical drainage. Your kidneys can also sustain injury if you become severely dehydrated as a result of a food-borne illness. Prompt treatment with antibiotics and intravenous fluids may prevent the complications of E. coli and Salmonella poisoning.