Gastrointestinal infections happen when bacteria, viruses or parasites cause the gastrointestinal tract to become inflamed. This condition is called gastroenteritis.
They can happen in any part of the gastrointestinal tract, especially in the stomach and the intestines.
It’s estimated that 15.9 million people in Australia experience gastroenteritis from gut infections each year.
What causes these infections?
There are several possible causes of gut infections:
Adenovirus is a virus that usually attacks the upper respiratory system, especially in children. Despite this, the virus can also infect other parts of the body including the stomach and intestines, causing symptoms like diarrhoea and abdominal pains.
This is a common form of bacteria found in undercooked food, usually poultry. Infections due to campylobacter are common among young children and the symptoms include diarrhoea (occasionally with blood), fever, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Pinworms are parasites that can infect the gut. They are the most common type of parasitic gut infections found in humans and can be seen in stools as tiny, white, thread-like creatures.
Typically symptoms involve itching around the anal region, skin rashes and abdominal discomfort. They are easily treatable and rarely cause any long-term effects.
This bacteria is usually found in the stomach, though it may be prevalent in the small intestine as well. Helicobacter pylori are known to cause ulcers in the stomach and the small intestine, leading to stomach cancers in some individuals.
What are the common symptoms of a gut infection?
The symptoms may vary depending on what is causing the gastrointestinal infection but the most common ones include:
Blood or mucus in the stool
Loss of appetite
Abdominal pain (location may vary)
If you experience these symptoms, get in touch with a gut doctor in Sydney.
Frequently asked questions
Here are a few common questions regarding gut infections:
How long does a gut infection last?
A gut infection may last for a few days to at least two weeks, depending on the nature of the infection and the treatments you take.
How serious is a gut infection?
Typically, a gut infection is a mild condition that may go away after a few days. Despite this, stomach infections may prove to be dangerous for people with weak immune systems, babies and the elderly.
Can a blood test detect gut infections?
Yes, they can. Blood tests can be used to detect helicobacter pylori in the gut, this is done by checking if the sample of blood from the patient has antigens for H. pylori.
How can these infections be treated?
The treatment depends on what’s causing the infection. For viral and parasitic infections, antibiotics will have little to no effect, though medication like albendazole can kill off gut parasites.
Avoiding high-fibre foods and drinking plenty of fluids may help treat the infection under control.
How can a gut doctor help with these infections?
The symptoms of gut infections are not always very obvious and may look similar to those of other gastrointestinal problems; due to this, proper diagnosis and tests are needed to detect an infection and ensure appropriate treatment.
A gut doctor can advise you on all the necessary tests that need to be taken and give you the proper treatments for your symptoms.
Speak to a gastrointestinal specialist if you suspect you have a gut infection
Dr Suhirdan Vivekanandarajah is a gastroenterologist based in Sydney who specialises in various gastrointestinal diseases and treatments.
Speak with Dr Vivekanandarajah for treatment and support if you feel your symptoms are caused by a gastrointestinal infection.
Meet Dr Suhirdan
Interventional Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist
Bsc (Med) | M.B.B.S. (Hons) | FRACP