Kidney Disease and E. Coli 

By Tamara Farhat rewritten from the Kidney Community Kitchen E.Coli Fact Sheet 

Food safety is important for everyone to be aware of but especially when you’re immunocompromised. There are many food-related diseases that can compromise your health and cause illness, especially if you’re a kidney patient. One of the most common food related diseases is Escherichia Coli, widely known as E. coli. 

E. coli is a bacterium found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals1. Although some types of E. Coli are harmless, others can cause sickness that can range from mild to life-threatening. In some cases, E. coli can cause diarrhea, but in others it may cause urinary tract infections and even lead to kidney failure. That’s why it’s important to stay safe and keep eye out for any symptoms. 

The symptoms of an E. coli infection begin to appear 3 to 4 days after exposure to the bacteria. They may last from 5 to 7 days and can be the following: 

  • Diarrhea, which is often bloody but may last only for a short-time 
  • Vomiting 
  • Severe stomach cramps or abdominal tenderness 
  • A mild fever 

If you suspect you have diarrhea caused by an E. Coli infection, it’s important to go to the emergency room immediately.  

E. coli comes in different types. A specific type called 0157:H7, produces a harmful toxin that can damage blood cells, kidneys and other organs too. This may lead to a serious complication called Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (HUS), commonly known as Hamburger Disease. Some of the symptoms of HUS are fatigue, paleness, and a decrease in urine output. HUS is the most common potentially preventable cause of kidney failure in children in North America especially in children under the age of 5 years. Very young children may also be at a high-risk of seizure and strokes. 

Good hydration may decrease the risk of HUS but it’s always important to speak to your health care team if you develop any symptoms. 

There are many causes of E. coli such as drinking contaminated water from untreated or surface water, consuming contaminated food from raw, undercooked or fresh meat and produce, or improperly handling food and not cooking meats to their correct internal temperature. E. coli can also be cause by poor hygiene, such as not washing your hands properly or frequently 2. And it may also be spread from person to person as well.  

That why it’s important that you practice safe food handling, such as cooking your meat to a proper temperature, be careful of your food and water sources and maintain a proper hygiene. To learn more about food safety and proper food handling, read our food safety fact sheet and this blog post: HITTING THE GREAT OUTDOORS? Better Pack A Cooler! 

To learn more E. coli, how to prevent it and tips to stay safe, please read our fact sheet.  


The Kidney Community Kitchen, E.Coli fact sheet, 

Health Canada, Prevention of E. coli (Escherichia coli) infection, 

Leave a Reply