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Gastrointestinal infections can have lasting consequences as IBS
      08/07/05 04:08 PM
HeatherAdministrator

Reged: 12/09/02
Posts: 7788
Loc: Seattle, WA

Ontario and Newfoundland incidents show gastrointestinal infections can have lasting consequences

Canadian outbreaks of two different gastrointestinal infections show the illnesses come with long-term health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
IBS puzzles doctors because medical tests usually don't show any abnormalities in the intestine, despite the presence of abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation and bloating.

The two incidents -- the water-borne bacterial outbreak in Walkerton, Ont., in May 2000 and a food-borne viral outbreak at a scientific meeting in Newfoundland -- are providing researchers with an unprecedented look at what happens once the infections pass.

"It's a tragic opportunity, obviously we recognize that," says Dr. John Marshall, a gastroenterologist at McMaster University in Hamilton. "But it's an unusual opportunity to learn about the long-term outcomes of this sort of event."

The circumstances surrounding the Walkerton outbreak are well-known. Municipal water contaminated with E. coli bacteria killed seven local residents and made thousands of others sick. Some of them are still sick, according to Marshall's report.

He and his colleagues studied more than 2,000 Walkerton residents two to three years after the outbreak. One-third of those who got sick during the outbreak still had symptoms of IBS, including persistent diarrhea and abdominal pain. Just 10 per cent of people who did not get sick were found to have IBS.

The results lend a new note of credibility to the continuing health woes of Walkerton residents, Marshall says. "We need to bring legitimacy to this sort of complaint, because a lot of people -- certainly in Walkerton -- who've had irritable bowel syndrome find themselves a bit dismissed by the medical system because they don't have any identifiable abnormality."

As the researchers were collecting data on the Walkerton crisis, another outbreak occurred -- this time viral -- at the 2002 meeting of the Canadian Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates.

Marshall and his team followed up on 100 people present during the meeting, 75 of whom fell ill at the time. Two years later, 20 per cent of those who got sick reported continuing symptoms of IBS and had higher rates of constipation and bloating, but not diarrhea.

In comparing the two outbreaks, Marshall notes the IBS seemed to clear up sooner after the viral infection than after the bacterial infection.

The new information will help guide doctors in counselling people who have suffered a bout of acute gastroenteritis, Marshall says. "We need to know how long this lasts and what proportion of people go back to normal over time. That's what every patient wants to know. When will this go away?"

http://www.macleans.ca/topstories/health/article.jsp?content=20050728_101720_5392

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Heather is the Administrator of the IBS Message Boards. She is the author of Eating for IBS and The First Year: IBS, and the CEO of Heather's Tummy Care. Join her IBS Newsletter. Meet Heather on Facebook!

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