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Chronic gastrointestinal infections

Dangers of chronic gastrointestinal infections

Gastrointestinal infections are a serious health concern. In the developing world, gastrointestinal infections are the leading cause of death among children. Most of the gastrointestinal infections are acute, but if gastrointestinal complaints prolong for a significant period of time, it is advised to screen the patient for intestinal parasites. Most common gastrointestinal complains, and warning signs of the disease, include abdominal pain, chronic constipation or diarrhea, bloating, constant fatigue and severe reactions (like allergic reactions) upon ingestion of certain foods. Most people with chronic parasitic infections do not even know it, often going several years without symptoms. However, chronic gastrointestinal infections are severe problem since about half the people diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome had intestinal parasites.

Causes of chronic gastrointestinal infections

Various bacteria cause many cases of gastrointestinal infections. This is especially common in otherwise healthy adults. Other common sources of infection include viruses and protozoa. Salmonella is one of the main causes of chronic gastrointestinal infections. This bacterium often enters the human body due to ingestion of contaminated food. After a short incubation period of a few hours to one day, symptoms of the disease are starting to show up, usually as a severe diarrhea.

Shigella is another common cause of gastrointestinal infections. It is closely related to Escherichia coli and Salmonella and responsible for symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and flatulence. In some cases, the stool of a patient may contain blood, pus or mucus.
Escherichia coli can also be responsible for gastrointestinal infections. It is transmitted by fecal-oral route, from eating unwashed vegetables or undercooked meat. This bacterium is mainly responsible for diarrhea without fever, but some strains are more dangerous and associated with severe and even life-threatening complications.

Giardia is a parasite that may also cause chronic gastrointestinal infections. Giardia invades human intestines when people ingest or come into contact with contaminated food, soil, or water. Symptoms usually appear 1–2 weeks after infection and include abdominal cramps, excess gas, diarrhea, nausea and upset stomach.

Cryptosporidium is also a protozoan parasite in the phylum Apicomplexa. It is known to infect the intestines of people and spreads through the fecal-oral route. Usually, the parasite spreads through contaminated water and causes symptoms of diarrhea. The infection often lasts for two weeks, but it can also last up to one month. Other severe symptoms include stomach pains, diarrhea, low fever, vomiting, malabsorption and dehydration.

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