List of rare small intestine diseases

Electron micrograph showing Salmonella TyphimuriumInfections of this type may only last a short time, but can be present for long periods before a person has symptoms. As the major function of the small intestine is to digest, absorb and propel food along its length, most clinically important infections of the small intestine will interfere with these functions. Diarrhea is common; other symptoms include bleeding, bloating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and even features of complete abdominal obstruction. Some infections have characteristic features.

Salmonella Infections

Color-enhanced scanning electron
micrograph showing Salmonella Typhimurium
(red) invading cultured human cells.

Salmonella appears in many forms. The so called non-typhoidal Salmonella species is the most common cause of food poisoning outbreaks in the United States. These organisms are extremely common in meat products, but have also been traced to pet turtles and iguanas. Chickens and eggs are probably the most common cause of infection. Patients will develop symptoms 10 to 48 hours after eating contaminated food. They may have a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild gastroenteritis to a severe diarrheal illness with dehydration and profound infection. Patients with malignancies, sickle-cell anemia, aortic aneurysms, and heart valve disease appear to be more predisposed to getting a disseminated type of infection (i.e. spread to the blood).

Patients may get better without the use antibiotics. Antibiotics are recommended for very ill patients. A small percentage of individuals may develop a chronic carrier state; they are asymptomatic, but excrete salmonella in the stool for a year or longer.

Typhoid fever is a common worldwide
bacterial disease transmitted by the
ingestion of food or water contaminated
with feces from an infected individual.

Typhoid Fever – An infection from a particular species of Salmonella (usually Salmonella typhi), typhoid fever is characterized by prolonged fever, bacteria in the blood and multiple organ dysfunctions, including inflammation of the kidney and brain. Typhoid fever is becoming rare in the United States. Immunization is useful. Treatment requires powerful antibiotics and specific treatments for other organ involvements.

Staphylococcus Aureus – Staphylococcus aureus is probably the second most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in the United States. The bacteria multiply in the food and produce the toxin. The toxin that is produced by the food is not inactivated by heating. Symptoms develop within 6 to 8 hours and are dominated by vomiting and abdominal cramping. Usually patients make a full recovery within 24 to 48 hours.

Bacillus Cereus – Bacillus cereus is an organism that produces an intestinal toxin. This infection is associated with the consumption of fried rice. Vomiting usually occurs within six hours of ingesting the food. Some patients may develop diarrhea, but most improve spontaneously without specific treatment.

Other Infections – There are many other bacterial infections that can cause acute symptoms. These include the various E-coli, Clostridium, Campylobacter, Yersinia, and Vibrio (cholera). There are also viral infections of the intestine that can cause acute diarrheal illnesses which usually resolve spontaneously. Dehydration is the biggest problem.

Protozoal Infections

A species of protozoa in a bone marrow cell.
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