Gastroenteritis may be over in a few days, but the consequences can linger for years

If you’re unlucky enough to experience a case of gastroenteritis, you might endure several days of diarrhea and then think your woes are over.

Not so fast.

According to a study published online Friday in the British Medical Journal, a bout of acute gastroenteritis can increase one’s risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney problems years later.

The findings are based on the health histories of nearly 2,000 residents of Walkerton, Ontario, who were inadvertently exposed to E. coli O157:H7 and Campylobacter a decade ago, when the municipal water system was accidentally contaminated with livestock manure. In the following days, 54% of these people reported either bloody diarrhea or diarrhea that lasted for at least three days. They comprise the “acute gastroenteritis” group, and the other 46% served as controls.


The researchers found that those who got sick were 30% more likely than the controls to develop high blood pressure over the course of the study, with the greatest increase in risk occurring in the first two years after illness.

The gastroenteritis group was also twice as likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure or other type of cardiovascular disease.

The biggest increased risk was for structural and functional renal impairment. Those who were sickened during the outbreak were 3.4 times more likely to develop a combination of both kinds of kidney problems, according to the BMJ study.

The researchers, from the London Health Sciences Centre and the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, recommended that doctors pay careful attention to patients who suffered acute gastroenteritis.