Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is an uncommon disorder characterized by acute kidney failure, low red cell count and low platelet count. In children, HUS most often occurs after several days of diarrhea, often bloody, due to a specific strain of E. coli named O157:H7.
E. coli O157:H7 causes inflammation of the intestine. It also produces a toxin that causes damage and swelling in the lining of blood vessels, especially the small blood vessels (glomerular capillaries) in the kidney. As red blood cells travel through the damaged blood vessels, they’re often destroyed (hemolysis). This may result in acute kidney failure.
Additional signs and symptoms of HUS include:
• Pale skin tone
• Fatigue and irritability
• Small, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth
• Decreased urination
• Swelling of the face, hands, feet or entire body
Treatment may include:
• Kidney dialysis
• Red blood cell transfusions to correct anemia
• Platelet transfusions if bleeding occurs
Most children with diarrhea-associated E. coli infection don’t develop HUS. Those who do, require hospitalization and careful management.With appropriate treatment, the majority of children will recover with no permanent kidney damage.