I have a girl that I'm seeing. She was just in the hospital about 2 weeks ago with an internal E.coli infection in her kidney (she had the other kidney removed due to cancer). She has been given a ton of antibiotics because it was a very strong strain and it took her quite a bit of treatment to get over it.

Is E. coli contagious? Am I putting myself at any risk with dating activities like kissing, oral sex, sex, etc? I really didn't know you could get E. coli in your kidneys and I have no idea what that means for me as her partner.

  • 2
    Your GF appears to have had a serious case of pyelonephritis. The risk of a recurrence for her is what you should be principally worried about, since she only has one kidney left. This is a serious matter which, if the two of you are in a serious relationship, should be discussed with her urologist/nephrologist/whatever specialist is watching over her remaining precious kidney. If you're asking do people who are intimate pick up each other's colonic bacteria, the answer is "yes". Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 8:07
  • Was there anything else you wanted to know? Or is there something you would like me to cover so that you would feel comfortable accepting the answer?
    – Atl LED
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


Yes, E. coli is definitely contagious through direct contact. In fact your girlfriend's pyelonephritis could have come from you after sexual intercourse.

The general mechanism for this would be that you had the pathogenic E. coli on your penis, and then it traveled up her urethra to the kidney. This is why there is a recommendation for women to urinate after sex. That very same E. coli on your penis is unlikely to cause you an infection.

Note that E. coli is common in the GI tract, and not uncommonly found on the skin. Not all strains are pathogenic and most aren't within the GI tract. Having a conversation as a couple with a health provider is a very good idea.

There is a lot of hygiene that everyone sexually active should consider, but is unfortunately not taught.

  • I must apologize in that I realize that I read the OP is almost certainly coming from a male, but I realize that is not necessarily the case. Lesbian interactions are less likely to lead to transmission, but it is not impossible. Safe sex practices should be used either way, and any health provider will be happy to talk to you about the matter as a couple.
    – Atl LED
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 1:58

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