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What are the Different Infections That Cause Diarrhea?

Frequent bowel movement, characterized by loose watery stool, is known as diarrhea. Diarrhea can be acute or chronic.

Acute diarrhea lasts for a shorter time, usually for a day or two or longer. It mostly goes away on its own. Chronic diarrhea lasts for around four weeks or may also come and go. Chronic diarrhea can be because of a serious infection and would require medication to get resolved.

What are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is also accompanied by cramps in the abdomen, fever, chills, dehydration and weakness.

People suffering from diarrhea have few amongst the following symptoms:

  • Urgency for stool.
  • Loss of control of the bowel movements.
  • Pain in abdomen.
  • Cramping.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.

Symptoms of Diarrhea Caused by an Infection

If suffering from an infection, which has caused diarrhea, one or more of the following symptoms may arise with diarrhea caused by infection:

Diarrhea commonly leads to dehydration, which is characterized by weakness, dry mouth, sunken eyes and teeth, and feeling tired all the time.

What are the Different Infections That Cause Diarrhea?

There are three types of infection that can cause diarrhea; these infections are:

Diarrhea Caused by Bacterial Infection:

Bacteria enter the body through contaminated food and water and cause bacterial infection. Most common bacteria causing diarrhea are Campylobacter, Escherichia coli, Shigella, Yersinia and salmonella. These parasites which cause bacterial infection resulting in diarrheal are found in:

  • Yersinia is found in pork.
  • Staphylococcus is found in dairy products, meat and eggs.
  • Shigella is found in water.
  • Salmonella is found in meat, dairy products and eggs.
  • E. coli is found in beef and salads.

A person suffering from a bacterial infection can spread it to another person if the food gets contaminated by that infected person. People who travel a lot or who have a weak immune system are at an increased risk of getting infected from these bacteria which leads to diarrhea.

Diarrhea Caused by Viral Infections

The most common cause observed for causing acute diarrhea is viral gastroenteritis. There are various viruses causing diarrhea including norovirus and rotavirus. Viral infection usually recovers on its own without any complication. But for the infants, older adults and people with a weak immune system, viral gastroenteritis can prove to be deadly.

Norovirus can affect both children and adults and is the most common cause of food-borne illness worldwide. The patient gets the viral infection from the contaminated food and it can also be transmitted from person to person.

Rotavirus is another most common cause of diarrhea due to viral infection. This viral infection mostly affects the children. Children get the virus when they touch a contaminated object and put their fingers in their mouth. The infected adults though may not always show the symptoms, but may still spread the viral infection causing diarrhea.

Contaminated water is the main cause of viral diarrhea, and in many cases, the fecal-oral route is also a transmitting factor for causing diarrhea.

Diarrhea Caused by Parasitic Infections

Parasites like cryptosporidium, Entamoeba histolytica, and Giardia lamblia enter the body through food and contaminated water. Sanitation is also a major issue in parasitic infestation in the intestine causing diarrhea.

Cryptosporidium infection causes watery diarrhea. Cryptosporidium travels to the small intestine and burrows in the walls of the intestine. The parasite infection usually goes away within one or two week’s time. Cryptosporidium infection causing watery diarrhea can be life-threatening if proper treatment is not taken.

Entamoeba histolytica is a causative agent of amebiasis and an important cause of parasitic diarrhea in developing countries. Parasitic infection caused by Entamoeba histolytica is a major cause of human mortality globally. This parasitic infection spreads through contaminated food, water, plants, swimming in contaminated water, exposure to endemic area, and person to person spread. The patients in this parasitic infection present the symptom of abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea.

Giardia lamblia is a parasite leading to diarrhea. This parasitic infection is most common in the overcrowded developing countries that lack proper sanitation. Giardia lamblia parasite is found in animal and human feces. Giardia spreads through contaminated water, pools, personal contact and poor hygiene.


The infections that lead to diarrhea mostly spreads through contaminated water and food. Therefore the basic preventive measure lies in maintaining proper hygiene and eating fresh food. Diarrhea can lead to a life-threatening condition, and therefore if it does not resolve soon, a doctor should be consulted ASAP.


  1. Mayo Clinic: Diarrhea – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diarrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352241
  2. World Health Organization: Diarrhoeal disease https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diarrhoeal-disease
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Parasites – Giardia – https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/index.html
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Viral Gastroenteritis – https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/about/index.html

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 24, 2023

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