Group Health researchers in the May issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that E. coli bacteremia may affect as many as 53,000 non-institutionalized people, aged 65 and older, each year.
“E. coli is a less serious problem in the urinary tract, but if it spreads to the bloodstream it causes bacteremia, which can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure called septic shock,” explained Lisa Jackson, MD, MPH, a senior investigator at Group Health’s Center for Health Studies and the lead author of the study. “Bacteremia is associated with a death rate of about 10 percent,” Jackson added.
While there is a vaccine to protect seniors from pneumococcal bacteremia, which starts in the lungs, there is no similar vaccine to protect against E. coli bacteremia.
“Our study finds E. coli bacteremia three times more common than the pneumococcal infection,” said Jackson. “That suggests that development of a vaccine could save many lives.”
Certain health behaviors can help prevent urinary tract infections, and, by association, may also help reduce the risk of bacteremia. Information on these preventive measures is available online from the National Institutes of Health.