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Is E. Coli in Urine Contagious To my Boyfriend/girlfriend?

Is E. Coli in Urine Contagious To my Boyfriend/girlfriend?

Our content is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice by your doctor. Use for informational purposes only.

1. What you need to know.

  • E. coli in urine is often not contagious to your partner.
  • E. Coli is the most common cause of urinary tract infection.
  • Female gender, sexual activity, pregnancy, and menopause are common risk factors of E. coli UTI.
  • It is generally not dangerous, and most cases improve with treatment.
  • Rarely, it may cause complications such as pyelonephritis and sepsis.

2. How frequent is E. coli in Urinary tract infections?

E Coli is a bacteria mainly present normally in your colon and stool. However, E. coli may abnormally increase in number and cause severe diarrhea.

E Coli is the most frequent organism infecting the urinary tract.

  • Up to 60-70% of UTIs are caused by E. coli (reference).
  • E. coli-induced UTI has high rates of recurrence (44% risk of recurrence of UTI within one year (reference)).

E. coli is one of the most vigorously studied bacteria and has a record of 11 Nobel prizes associated with it.

What makes the organism the most frequent cause of UTI:

  • E. coli is abundant in the colon and is excreted with stool (The main cause of UTI is the contamination of the urethral opening with E. coli from the stool).
  • Very low infectious dose (very few E. coli Bacteria can cause UTI.
  • The bacteria can grow with or without oxygen.
  • E. coli is difficult to eleminate (by both the immune system and antibiotics (multi-drug resistant (MDR) E. coli).
  • The MDR E. coli has increased dramatically in recent years, making it one of the difficult-to-treat bacteria.

3. How do you get E. coli UTIs?

E. coli is found mainly in the colon. The most frequent type of E. coli that causes UTI is the Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC).

The most common way to get E. coli UTI is by contaminating the urethral opening with E. coli bacteria reaching it from the colon through the anal canal. The bacteria then travels through the urethra to infect the urinary bladder and may continue to infect the kidneys.

Also, you may get a UTI by bacteria circulating in the circulation and reaching the kidneys and urinary tract (less common).

E. coli UTI risk factors include (reference)

  • Being a female:
    • Women have a shorter and broader urethra, making it easy for E. coli UTIs.
    • The distance between the anus and the urethral opening is shorter in females, making it easier for E. coli to reach the urethra.
    • The female urethral opening is found in a moist area (an easier medium for E Coli bacteria to move and grow).
  • Sexual activity:
    • Sexually active females are at higher risk of getting E. coli UTI than those who are not.
    • Using spermicide-coated diaphragms and condoms is a strong risk factor for UTIs (E. coli UTI included).
    • Switching orifices during intercourse may also play a role.
  • Pregnancy:
    • Pregnant women are at higher risk of E. coli bacteria in their urine (asymptomatic or with UTI symptoms).
    • The theory behind UTI in pregnant is the compression of the bladder and urethra by the uterus leading to the incomplete evacuation of the bladder and urine stasis.
  • Menopause:
    • Menopause is associated with lower estrogen levels.
    • The low estrogen leads to vaginal atrophy, altered vaginal PH, and altered vaginal flora (beneficial bacteria), making it easier for E. coli to cause UTIs.
  • Other factors:
    • Low immunity states.
    • Abnormal urinary tract anatomy (such as bladder diverticulum or urine reflux from the bladder upwards to the ureters.
    • Kidney or bladder stones.
    • Urinary catheter use.

4. Is E. coli in urine contagious to my partner?

E Coli urinary tract infections are not sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, you can safely have intercourse with your partner if you have UTI E. Coli.

Your partner may have a small risk of getting a UTI. To minimize this risk, follow these tips:

  • First, urinate before and after sex to flush out bacteria.
  • Wife front and back after urination.
  • Avoid risky sexual behaviors such as switching orifices.
  • Wash your hands before manually stimulating your partner.

5. Is E Coli UTI dangerous?

Most cases of UTI E. Coli are in the form of simple cystitis (uncomplicated UTI). However, some E. coli may become complicated with a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) or sepsis.

Moreover, patients with E. Coli UTI are at higher risk of recurrence (reference) than other types of bacteria.

UTI from E. Coli is one of the difficult to treat infections due to the emergence of multi-drug resistant UTIs. However, a urine culture and sensitivity test will help you and your doctor select the best antibiotic for E. coli.

Signs of complicated E. coli UTI (reference):

  • Fever >37.7°C (>99.9°F).
  • Chills or rigors.
  • Significant fatigue, muscle aches, or any other feature of systemic illness.
  • Flank pain.
  • Pelvic or perineal pain in men.
  • Tenderness over the kidney area when your doctor examines it (tender costovertebral angle).

Who are at higher risk of serious complications from E. coli UTI?

  • Presence of Stones in the Urinary bladder, kidney, or ureter.
  • Obstruction inside the urinary tract (commonly ureteric, caused by a stone or a structure).
  • Male gender.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Diabetes mellitus.
  • Chronic kidney disease (deteriorated kidney function).
  • Immunosuppressive medications.
  • Patients with spinal cord or neurological diseases (neurogenic bladder).

MORE: UTI (urethritis) From Soap Irritation: 7 Facts & Tips

  • Evidence-based
  • Written by a doctor.

MD, Internal Medicine and Nephrology specialist.
Dr. Esraa A. Magid
Dr. Esraa A. MagidAuthor