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Intestinal infections: what can cause them

The list of the most frequent diseases that occur in the warm season, usually leading intestinal infections. This is a group of infectious diseases that cause disturbances in the work of the digestive system. Let's understand what intestinal infections are, how dangerous it is, why they arise and how to protect against them.

What is intestinal infection

Intestinal infections, or acute intestinal infectious diseases - this is a fairly extensive and very common group of diseases caused by various pathogens, which may be bacteria, viruses, or some protozoa. The pathogen enters the body through the mouth, provoking an inflammatory process.

Once in the human body, the infection most actively develops in the intestine, but initially the disease is asymptomatic (the incubation period can last from 6 to 48 hours). Symptoms of the disease can be caused either directly by the microbe or by the toxins secreted by it.

A typical symptom of an acute intestinal infection is diarrhea, that is, liquid, watery stools and frequent visits to the toilet. When a person is healthy, in his intestine there is a process of absorption of fluid from the fecal masses, because of which the stool at the exit has a uniform consistency. Against the background of an intestinal infection, this process is disturbed: the intestine stops drawing water, and the body quickly loses fluid. Therefore, the main danger of diarrhea is dehydration and the loss of electrolytes important for the functioning of the body (along with water, reserves of potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and other beneficial substances are lost). If the dehydration is very severe, against the background of an intestinal infection, a person may develop a serious complication, such as renal failure or dehydration shock.

In addition to diarrhea, other symptoms appear during acute intestinal infection. But depending on the type of the disease, the symptoms may differ slightly. Symptoms of intestinal infection can also manifest as acute gastritis, accompanied by pain in the stomach and vomiting. In the form of gastroenteritis with diarrhea and vomiting, enteritis with diarrhea, colitis, during which blood appears in the stool, and also in the form of enterocolitis, which affects almost the entire intestine.

Causes and sources of intestinal infections

Infection with intestinal infections is easier than ever. Uncleaned hands, dirty fruits or vegetables, expired canned foods, and improperly processed mushrooms can cause a health problem. At present, experts say about the existence of more than 30 different intestinal infections, but for any of them infection occurs through the mouth (the reason is food, water, unwashed hands). Among intestinal infections, there are both innocuous, which are easily cured on their own at home, and very serious, which, if improperly treated, can be fatal. Among the latter are usually referring to typhoid fever, cholera and botulism.

All intestinal infections are infectious, that is, easily transmitted from person to person. The pathogen enters the external environment along with the feces, urine, and the patient's vomit. The pathogen can persist for several months in water, soil, dishes and household items. Most germs that cause intestinal diseases tolerate cold well, although they feel most comfortable in a warm and humid environment. It is for this reason that intestinal diseases are considered the main danger of the summer season.

The most dangerous, in terms of the risk of catching an intestinal infection, are ground beef, dairy products, jelly, jellies, and water. In these products, microbes get the most comfortable environment for reproduction. For example, unboiled milk or sour cream, yogurt or cottage cheese made from an infected product can cause dysentery. Poor quality yogurt and kefir may contain E. coli, and overdue cream cakes may contain staphylococcus. As for salmonellosis, which is almost 400 varieties, they can become infected by eating raw or half raw eggs, not fried chicken meat, unwashed vegetables, fruits, greens, not high-quality water, as well as questionable quality sausages and boiled sausage.

Intestinal infection viral etiology

When a person is diagnosed with an intestinal infection, viruses can cause the disease. Malfunctions of the digestive system are caused by enteroviruses, rotaviruses, adenoviruses. The main danger of viral intestinal diseases is their rapid spread. A short-term contact with the patient is enough to get it from him. The only effective prevention is to avoid contact with the infected.

Rotavirus infection

Probably many have heard of such a disease as "intestinal flu." The illness was not named accidentally, since it manifests itself in two groups of symptoms: characteristic of ordinary flu and for severe poisoning. Who first encounters this disease is usually sure that he has a cold, which simply coincided in time with indigestion. But in fact, the cause of this condition are rotaviruses. And if you know some features of the course of this disease, it is easy to distinguish it from ordinary flu and poisoning.

A patient with rotavirus infection suddenly has a fever, chills, weakness, body aches, and muscle and joint pain — typical symptoms of a cold. But simultaneously with these symptoms, very severe diarrhea and vomiting begin, which can be repeated more than ten times a day. A characteristic feature of rotavirus intestinal infection is frothy feces with a sweetish odor.

The main danger of rotavirus infection is severe diarrhea and frequent vomiting, which quickly cause dehydration. Because of him, the patient, in addition to the main symptoms, appear dry mouth, thirst and dizziness. Therefore, emergency treatment for this disease is reduced to the replacement of fluids and electrolytes in the body. Plain water for such purposes is not the best option, since it does not contain chemical elements that are missing from a dehydrated organism. With strong dehydration, the drug Regidron or its analogue, prepared at home from 2 liters of water and sugar, salt and soda, taken according to 1 tbsp. l

To combat rotavirus infection, it is also important to take sorbents and the drug Diosmektit. This group of medications helps to stop vomiting and diarrhea. To relieve fever take antipyretics, such as paracetamol. In addition, it is important for people with "intestinal flu" to follow a special diet. At least for a few days it is worth to abandon fruits, vegetables, juices and dairy products, as they cause fermentation in the intestines, which does not help to alleviate the condition.

This disease is the most common of the group of intestinal infections of viral nature. The reason is that rotaviruses easily enter the body through unwashed hands, dirty fruits and vegetables, as well as through poorly washed tableware and dishes. Possible infection by airborne.

If the disease manifests itself in a mild form, and the treatment is correct and was started on time, then the symptoms usually disappear after 2-3 days. Heavier ailment occurs in young children, as well as in adults who have failed to quickly restore the reserves of fluid in the body. In such cases, they fight with dehydration in the hospital with intravenous infusions of saline solutions (Trisol, Acisol).

Enterovirus infection

This is another large group of intestinal infectious diseases, which, although less frequent than those caused by rotaviruses, are, as a rule, more severe. Ways of infection with enteroviruses are similar to rotavirus infection, that is, through unwashed hands, vegetables, fruits and dirty dishes, water.

The first signs of an intestinal infection of this type are vomiting and diarrhea, which, however, do not manifest as much as in the case of rotoviruses. The danger of the disease in another - it can cause complications, affecting other organs and systems. Against the background of an enterovirus disease, a rash may appear on different parts of the body. In some patients, the spleen and liver are enlarged, a sore throat or signs of inflammation in the respiratory organs appear. In the most severe cases, enterovirus infection can occur with signs of encephalitis or enteroviral meningitis. Harder intestinal infections caused by enteroviruses, carry small children. In adults, the disease that occurs without complications usually lasts no more than 5-7 days. The principles of treatment of enterovirus infections are similar to those used for rotavirus infection.

Adenovirus infection

Unknowingly, illnesses of this group can be mistaken for anything but an intestinal infection. Classical signs of gastrointestinal diseases, such as diarrhea or vomiting, are rarely significant, and therefore the risk of dehydration in adenoviral infections is minimal. The disease manifests itself in a different way: the patient usually affects the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. Another characteristic feature of the disease is that it occurs in two phases: after temporary relief, the second wave of the disease begins.

Bacterial intestinal infections

Diseases of this group, though they appear less frequently and do not spread as quickly as viral ones, but represent a more serious danger to the health and, often, to human life. The causative agents of these diseases, as the name suggests, are specific bacteria.

Infectious diseases of a bacterial nature are:

  • dysentery;
  • salmonellosis;
  • colibacillosis (coli infection);
  • typhoid fever;
  • cholera;
  • shigellosis and others.

Each of these diseases has many features, but, as a rule, the ways of infection are identical in all cases. You can become infected by eating foods that have not undergone the necessary heat treatment. This primarily concerns meat, eggs, dairy products, as well as water from suspicious sources, unwashed vegetables and fruits. The highest risk of getting any of these infections persists in countries with poor sanitary conditions, as well as in public catering establishments with a dubious reputation. In rare cases, a bacterial intestinal infection can be infected through household contact with an infected person.

Intestinal infections of a bacterial nature are manifested by fever and diarrhea. How severe will be one or another symptom depends on the pathogen that caused the disease. But in any case, at the first suspicion of a bacterial intestinal infection, it is necessary to consult a doctor and get tested. It should be understood that the health problems of a bacterial nature require specific treatment, and this is impossible without a correct diagnosis.

The basis of the treatment of intestinal infections caused by bacteria are antibiotic drugs. Only a doctor can determine the type of antibiotic and the course of treatment. The treatment of bacterial infections is always a comprehensive approach. Proper therapy consists of several tasks:

  • eliminate fever;
  • stop diarrhea;
  • restore the reserves of fluid and electrolytes in the body;
  • normalize the GIT microflora.

Intestinal infections caused by protozoa

This group includes intestinal infections caused by pathogenic single-celled organisms that have settled in the human digestive system. Such diseases include giardiasis, amebiasis, cryptosporidiosis, isosporosis, cyclosporiasis, microsporidiosis, balantidiasis, sarkosporidiosis and some others. The most famous are the first two - caused by Giardia and amoebas. Both types of these protozoa in the environment are found in an inactive form - encapsulated (cysts). In this form, they can maintain their viability for up to several months. But enough water or food contaminated with such cysts, to penetrate into the human body, as the protozoa pass into the so-called luminal form, that is, are activated and become capable of causing serious diseases. Take at least giardia and giardiasis caused by them. This is a very common infection. Against the background of infection with this protozoa, a person has diarrhea and a violation of the digestive process, abdominal pain, and fever. This disease, albeit very unpleasant, but quite easy to treat. You can not say about amebiasis. Infection, provoked by amoeba, causes symptoms similar to giardiasis, but it is rather difficult to eliminate them, in some cases the disease can even be fatal. Therefore, if you suspect that the intestinal infection is caused by protozoa, it is absolutely impossible to self-medicate.

Diagnosis and treatment

As a rule, symptoms of intestinal infections appear unexpectedly. At the first stage of the development of the disease, a person has a headache, appetite decreases, body temperature rises, he looks sluggish, feels weak. At this stage, an intestinal infection can be mistaken for SARS. But soon patients develop nausea and vomiting, spastic abdominal pain, flatulence, mucus, pus or blood may appear in the liquid stool (with dysentery). In some cases, an intestinal infection may be asymptomatic, but an infected person is still a source of infection.

For any signs of disruption of the digestive system it is very important to identify the disease in time. Some symptoms of an intestinal infection may resemble poisoning, including medication, acute appendicitis, pneumonia, an ectopic pregnancy, or myocardial infarction.

To accurately determine the diagnosis, it is necessary to consult an infectious diseases specialist. For the diagnosis of the patient to pass a bacteriological examination of feces or vomit. The treatment of any intestinal infection is a complex therapy. It consists in removing the pathogen from the body and microbial poisons, restoring the water balance and microflora of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as adhering to a special diet. During the recovery period after any intestinal infection, it is desirable to avoid foods that cause fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract and flatulence, and this is black bread, milk, beans, cabbage, beets. During this period it is better to include in the menu liquid rice porridge on water, baked apples, dairy products.

As for the prevention of intestinal infections, they are quite simple. To protect yourself from the diseases of this group, you must:

  • refuse to use unboiled milk;
  • water from questionable sources should always be boiled before drinking;
  • Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly before cooking with running water and preferably with soap.
  • wash hands before each meal;
  • adhere to the rules and terms of storage of food.

To protect against intestinal infections of the child, it is necessary to teach him not to bite his nails and not put dirty hands and toys in his mouth.

First aid for intestinal infection

If nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and the temperature has risen to 38-39 degrees, it may be the first signs of an intestinal infection. If at the same time the patient's condition continues to deteriorate, it is necessary to immediately call an ambulance.

Before the arrival of the ambulance brigade of the patient must be put in a bed, near which to put the container for vomit and excrement.Before you drain this fluid into the sewer, it should be treated with bleach in a ratio of 1: 2.

If vomiting does not occur on its own, it is better for the patient to wash the stomach, using 1-1.5 liters of warm, slightly salted water. After the procedure to prevent dehydration drink Regidron (dilute 1 sachet in 1 liter of boiled water). For the destruction of toxins to the patient it is useful to take the drug from the group of enterosorbents, and to relieve abdominal pain - an antispasmodic. True, with regard to medicines, it is better not to take them until the doctor arrives - so as not to smear the clinical picture.

If possible, the patient should be allocated a separate room and personal dishes. It is important to limit the contact of an infected person with young children, elderly people, persons with weakened immunity, as they, as a rule, are very difficult to endure intestinal infections.

Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract of an infectious nature are not trivial poisoning or indigestion, they are serious and very contagious diseases requiring systemic treatment. Ailments of this group are very common, however, observing the banal rules of hygiene, it is easy to protect themselves from them.

Article author:
Izvozchikova Nina Vladislavovna

Specialty: infectious diseases specialist, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist.

Total experience: 35 years.

Education: 1975-1982, 1MMI, San gig, high qualification, infectious diseases doctor.

Science degree: doctor of the highest category, PhD.


  1. Infectious diseases.
  2. Parasitic diseases.
  3. Emergency conditions.
  4. Hiv
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Watch the video: What is an intestinal infection ? Better Health Channel (February 2020).