Scottish Surveillance of Healthcare Associated Infection Programme (SSHAIP)

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E.Coli Bacteraemia

Background Information on E. coli bacteraemia

What is E. coli?

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterium commonly found in the gut of animals and people where it forms part of the normal gut flora that helps human digestion. Although most types of E. coli live harmlessly in your gut, some types can make you unwell.

E. coli O157, for example, can cause diarrhea due to the production of toxins. Other types E. coli can cause urinary tract infections (UTI) and illnesses such as pneumonia.

What is bacteraemia?

Bacteraemia is a serious infection that occurs when bacteria get into the blood stream. This can be as a result of an infection (e.g. a urinary tract infection), surgery or the inappropriate use of medical devices (e.g. catheters). A wide variety of bacteria can cause bacteraemia. In its more severe form, bacteraemia is referred to as septicaemia.

How do you get E. coli bacteraemia?

E. coli can cause a bacteraemia when it gets into your blood stream.

What are the E. coli bacteraemia trends in Scotland?

The number of patients with E. coli bacteraemia reported to Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has increased continuously since 2009. There has been an overall increase from 3486 cases in 2009 to 4596 cases in 2015.

Additional information can be found in the HPS HAI Annual Report.

Mandatory Surveillance of E. coli bacteraemia in Scotland

E. coli is currently the most common cause of bacteraemia in Scotland. For this reason, the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorate (SGHSCD) requested an in-depth analysis of the epidemiology of E. coli bacteraemia in Scotland.

What is monitored in the mandatory E. coli bacteraemia surveillance programme?

The number of cases per NHS Board in Scotland is monitored.

Enhanced national surveillance of E. coli bacteraemia coordinated by HPS was made mandatory in all NHS boards in April 2016. This enhanced surveillance will collect additional data on the source and entry point of the bacteraemia.  

Scottish Urinary Tract Infection Network (SUTIN)SUTIN logo

As urinary tract infections are commonly associated with E. coli bacteraemia cases, work is underway to engage with the Scottish Urinary Tract Infection Network (SUTIN) so we can promote collaborative working with our partners within Health and Social Care around change ideas which may reduce the risk of E. coli bacteraemia.

Publications - Annual

Annual Surveillance of Healthcare Associated Infections Report

Annual Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Humans Report

Publications - Quarterly

Recommended reading

Infection Prevention and Control


To contact the E. coli bacteraemia (ECB) team team please email