Is My Heart Safe from Food Poisoning Bug?

E coli poisoning did not lead to later heart disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) One of the most common causes of food poisoning is the bacteria E. coli. It can also cause high blood pressure, so researchers wanted to know: does it increase the risk of heart disease?

A recent study has found it doesn't. The study looked at a large E. coli poisoning outbreak in Canada. The researchers tracked some of the adults who got ill for ten years after their diagnosis.

They found the risk of heart disease was no higher for these individuals than for those who did not become ill from E. coli during the outbreak.

"Ask your doctor about reducing your heart disease risk."

The study, led by Patricia Hizo-Abes, BHSc, of the Division of Nephrology at Western University in Ontario, Canada, focused on the E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario in May of 2000. It occurred because cow manure had gotten into the drinking water supply.

Of the more than 2,300 people who became ill during the outbreak, the researchers tracked 898 adults who had become ill. They selected 153 individuals who had severe gastroenteritis from the E. coli, 414 who had mild gastroenteritis and 330 who had no gastroenteritis but still were poisoned by the E. coli.

These three groups were compared to 11,263 residents from nearby towns who were not affected by the outbreak. The researchers looked at the rates of cardiovascular deaths or events, such as a heart attack or stroke, in the groups.

Among all of those studied, 9.7 percent of the individuals included in all four groups died or had a major event related to their heart.

However, the Walkerton residents who had become ill with E. coli were no more likely to die or have a heart attack, stroke or congestive heart failure than the residents of the nearby communities unaffected by the outbreak.

In addition, the individuals who had severe or mild gastroenteritis from the E. coli were no more likely to die or have a cardiovascular event than those who also became ill from E. coli but did not get gastroenteritis.

E. coli is responsible for 63,000 cases of illness a year in the US and can cause kidney problems and high blood pressure. However, it does not appear to increase the risk of heart disease in those who become ill from it.

The study was published November 19 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The research was funded by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, which is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Two authors have provided medical expert testimony on hemolytic uremic syndrome in the US. There were no other disclosures.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 30, 2012
Last Updated:
December 3, 2012