We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Shiga Toxin?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 21, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Shiga toxin is an extremely dangerous bacterial toxin that attacks the lining of blood vessels. People are most commonly exposed to this toxin as a result of becoming infected with foodborne bacterial illness. Treatment for people with this toxin in their bodies relies on providing supportive therapy to help the body recover while also eliminating the bacteria so they cannot continue to produce the toxin. This usually requires hospitalization for the patient.

Escherichia coli and Shigella dysenteriae are two common sources of shiga toxin. This toxin is a protein produced by the bacteria as part of natural metabolic processes. Since people usually become infected with the bacteria as a result of eating contaminated food and water, the first signs of shiga toxin exposure are often gastrointestinal in nature. Humans and some other animals have receptors on the lining of their blood vessels that make them vulnerable to this toxin, while other animals are immune because there are no receptors for the toxin to lock on to.

Bloody stool, vomiting, and extreme abdominal pain can occur, along with bloody urine in some patients. Patients can develop dysentery, hemolytic urine syndrome, and hemorrhagic colitis. They rapidly lose fluids and this contributes to the development of complications like impaired kidney function and changes in blood pressure. Sometimes shiga toxin enters the lungs and damages their lining, and patients eventually develop shock, fall into a coma, and die without treatment.

In patients who experience diarrhea and vomiting, one of the first line treatments is supplemental fluids to keep the patient hydrated. This can help address shiga toxin in the body. More specific treatments can include antibiotics to kill the bacteria and monitoring of kidney health for early signs of kidney damage. Patients infected with these bacteria usually need to be hospitalized for severe symptoms.

Harmful bacteria can be found in a wide range of foods. If people come to the hospital with signs of severe foodborne illness, doctors will want as much information as possible about what patients ate, where, and when. If multiple cases of food poisoning come in, this information can be helpful for identifying the start of an epidemic and recalling contaminated food products quickly, before the epidemic has a chance to spread. People can reduce their risks of developing foodborne illness by washing their hands thoroughly before food preparation, following commonsense food safety precautions, and paying attention to food recalls so they can discard contaminated foods.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.