What are systemic symptoms of bacterial gastroenteritis?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018
  • Author: Jennifer Lynn Bonheur, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Answer

Associated systemic symptoms can guide empiric therapy. Some enteric infections have characteristic systemic symptoms, whereas the associated systemic features of others do not occur reliably. Table 2, below, outlines the frequency of these symptoms with various organisms.

The characteristics of symptom onset and symptom duration can narrow the differential diagnosis of the organism. The onset of symptoms within 6 hours of exposure to the bacterial source indicates a preformed toxin, probably produced by a species of Staphylococcus or Bacillus. Table 2 outlines the incubation periods and duration of common bacteria.

Table 2. Symptoms and Their Characteristics (Open Table in a new window)

Organism

Incubation

Duration

Vomiting

Fever

Abdominal Pain

Aeromonas species

None

0-2 weeks

+/-

+/-

No

Bacillus species

1-16 hours

1-2 days

Yes

No

Yes

Campylobacter species

2-4 days

5-7 days

No

Yes

Yes

C difficile

Variable

Variable

No

Few

Few

C perfringens

0-1

1 day

Mild

No

Yes

Enterohemorrhagic E coli

1-8 days

3-6 days

No

+/-

Yes

Enterotoxigenic E coli

1-3 days

3-5 days

Yes

Low

Yes

Listeria species

20 hours

2 days

Few

Yes

+/-

Plesiomonas species

None

0-2 weeks

+/-

+/-

+/-

Salmonella species

0-3 days

2-7 days

Yes

Yes

Yes

Shigella species

0-2 days

2-7 days

No

High

Yes

S aureus

2-6 hours

1 day

Yes

No

Yes

Vibrio species

0-1 days

5-7 days

Yes

No

Yes

Y enterocolitica

0-6

1-46 days

Yes

Yes

Yes


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