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Sao Paulo Medical Journal

Print version ISSN 1516-3180On-line version ISSN 1806-9460


FAGUNDES-NETO, Ulysses  and  SCALETSKY, Isabel Cristina Affonso. The gut at war: the consequences of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli infection as a factor of diarrhea and malnutrition. Sao Paulo Med. J. [online]. 2000, vol.118, n.1, pp.21-29. ISSN 1516-3180.

Diarrheal disease is still the most prevalent and important public health problem in developing countries, despite advances in knowledge, understanding, and management that have occurred over recent years. Diarrhea is the leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age. The impact of diarrheal diseases is more severe in the earliest periods of life, when taking into account both the numbers of episodes per year and hospital admission rates. This narrative review focuses on one of the major driving forces that attack the host, namely the enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) and the consequences that generate malnutrition in an early phase of life. EPEC serotypes form dense microcolonies on the surface of tissue-culture cells in a pattern known as localized adherence (LA). When EPEC strains adhere to epithelial cells in vitro or in vivo they cause characteristic changes known as Attaching and Effacement (A/E) lesions. Surface abnormalities of the small intestinal mucosa shown by scanning electron microscopy in infants with persistent diarrhea, although non-specific, are intense enough to justify the severity of the clinical aspects displayed in a very young phase in life. Decrease in number and height of microvilli, blunting of borders of enterocytes, loss of the glycocalyx, shortening of villi and presence of a mucus pseudomembrane coating the mucosal surface were the abnormalities observed in the majority of patients. These ultrastructural derangements may be due to an association of the enteric enteropathogenic agent that triggers the diarrheic process and the onset of food intolerance responsible for perpetuation of diarrhea. An aggressive therapeutic approach based on appropriate nutritional support, especially the utilization of human milk and/or lactose-free protein hydrolyzate-based formulas and the adequate correction of the fecal losses, is required to allow complete recovery from the damage caused by this devastating enteropathogenic agent.

Keywords : Escherichia coli; Infantile diarrhea; Lethality risk; Persistent Diarrhea; Acute Diarrhea.

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