Neuropsychological outcome after complicated Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infection

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 22;9(7):e103029. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103029. eCollection 2014.


Background: The diarrhea associated hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a major cause of acute uremic failure in children, but not very common in adults. The enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli-epidemic in Germany in 2011 affected mostly young and healthy adults. While their immediate deficits have been published, not much is known about the time course and degree of recovery concerning cognitive and behavioral impairment.

Methods and findings: Twenty patients with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infection and neurological symptoms underwent comprehensive neuropsychological assessment 3 months and 1 year after the acute disease. Overall, there was an excellent recovery of cognitive functions. In a detailed neuropsychological analysis no significant deficits could be noticed 1 year after the infection in terms of cognitive function, alertness, executive functions and speech. Interestingly there were no correlations between different indicators for severity of disease (hemoglobin and creatinine levels, days of hospitalization, neurological symptoms and MRI changes) and neuropsychological outcome. However, there were a small number of patients with limitations in every day and professional life even one year after the acute disease.

Conclusions: Our study does not provide definitive answers regarding risk factors for these limitations. Still since Shiga toxin -producing Escherichia coli infection is a rare condition in adults, the information this study provides is important for the clinical practice. On one hand for consulting patients and on the other to raise the awareness of the physicians to possible long term complains and the consideration of neuropsychological assessment and supportive psychological treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / microbiology
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Escherichia coli Infections / complications*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurophysiological Monitoring
  • Shiga-Toxigenic Escherichia coli / isolation & purification*
  • Speech

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.