The Day after Tomorrow: the Long-Term Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

By: Suzanne Osborne, Ph.D

If you have ever had food poisoning you will appreciate the relief that follows the end of your sickness; the symptoms are gone, and you can get on with your life. But not all of us are so lucky. Occasionally, food poisoning can cause certain diseases to manifest years later with a vengeance. Sometimes, contaminated food can have life-long health consequences. 


Often, the long time lapse between the initial infection and chronic illness makes it difficult to link the two events. This creates a challenge in quantifying the true health and economic burden of foodborne disease. Large scale studies that track patients for years have begun to shed light on the long- term consequences of food poisoning.


Following an acute bacterial infection, most commonly with Salmonella or Campylobacter, a person is twice as likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD includes a group of diseases that inflame the intestines. It can lead to chronic episodes of diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, weight loss, abdominal abscesses and perforations. Severe cases can require surgical removal of portions of the intestinal tract. Environmental and genetic factors can impact the risk of developing IBD following food poisoning.

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