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Calgary researcher to lead study on E. coli infection in children

·2 min read

CALGARY — A University of Calgary researcher will lead a North American study examining a new way to treat E. coli infections that can cause kidney failure in children.

Professor and pediatrician Stephen Freedman will oversee the 26-site project, set to include more than 1,000 kids and run six years beginning in September 2022.

The university says the U.S.-based National Institutes of Health is providing more than $11 million for the investigation, meant to stop disease from progressing from bloody diarrhea to kidney shutdown and neurologic complications.

The Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute is also providing funds.

The study will focus on Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, or STEC, which is commonly found in cattle and can spread to humans. The University of Calgary says Alberta has one of the highest rates of STEC infection in the world given its abundance of cattle, sloped terrain, food crops and use of well water.

Freedman says the study will be the first in 20 years to evaluate a treatment focused on stopping disease progression.

He says it will consider the value of "early and aggressive intravenous rehydration," a rarity in early stages of the illness. The approach calls for large volumes of intravenous fluids early-on in a bid to maintain blood flow to the kidneys.

Infected children in the study will be hospitalized before any complications occur, even if they appear relatively well, Freedman said Tuesday in a release.

"What often happens is infected children will recover from the diarrhea and may look well but in nearly 20 per cent of children, unbeknownst to their parents and sometimes doctors, their kidneys are in the process of failing," Freedman said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 100,000 high-risk STEC infections occur annually in the United States.

More than 60 per cent of these infections are in children, half of whom are younger than five years old. Young children are at the highest risk of complications, which can include renal failure, strokes and in rare cases, death.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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