A description of the medical terms used or referred to in this food poisoning guide.



The area of the body between the pelvis and the chest. It contains internal organs such as the stomach, liver and intestines.


A medical term used to describe a symptom or an illness which develops rapidly and requires urgent attention. This is short term as opposed to chronic illnesses.


A type of antibody which is designed to destroy toxins released by bacteria and viruses.



A unicellular micro-organism which exists either on its own or within another organism. Pathogenic bacteria are responsible for infection and disease in humans. One example is salmonella bacteria which causes food poisoning.


A rare but serious form of food poisoning caused by the nerve toxin botulinum. This toxin is produced by the clostridium botulinum bacteria.



This pathogenic bacterium causes the most common form of food poisoning called camplyobacteriosis. This occurs from the consumption of food, e.g. undercooked meat which has been infected with these bacteria.


This is used to refer to an illness which has a long duration, e.g. it lasts for 3 months or longer. This differs from an acute illness which is short and brief.

Clostridium botulinum

A pathogenic strain of bacteria which is found within soil and is responsible for a deadly toxin that causes botulism.



A condition causes by excess fluid loss from the body which leads to an imbalance of vital minerals, e.g. sodium. This is a complication of food poisoning which occurs if too much fluid is lost as a result of vomiting and diarrhoea.


A medical condition where the body is unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin or in some cases does not produce any insulin at all. There are two forms of diabetes –type 1 and type 2.

Digestive system

The area of the body which enables food to pass in and out as well as processing it along the way. It includes the oesophagus (long tube which runs from the mouth to the anus) plus the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.


E coli A type of bacterium which lives within the digestive system of animals and humans. There are several strains of these bacteria but the 0157:H7 strain is pathogenic and a cause of food poisoning in humans.


Inflammation of the small intestine: this often occurs as a result of eating contaminated food.


Gastrointestinal tract

This refers to the stomach, small and large intestine. It is separated into the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract.

The upper gastrointestinal tract contains the oesophagus and the stomach. The lower gastrointestinal tract contains the small and large intestine and the anus.


An inflammation of the stomach lining.


Haemolytic uraemic syndrome

This disorder can occur following a bout of food poisoning and affects children more than adults. It is an umbrella term for three diseases which affect the blood and kidneys and is some cases, may cause kidney failure.



The name given to a situation in which a micro-organism such as a bacteria grows and spreads within another organism, e.g. a human being. One example of this is the e coli bacteria which thrive and multiply within the body causing an infection. This produces symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea which are known as food poisoning.



These are parts of the body which enable movement such as knees and ankles. They consist of two bones joined together by cartilage and connective tissue.



A pair of bean shaped organs which are located in the middle of the back. They act as a waste filtration system and help to regulate electrolytes and blood pressure.


Listeria A pathogenic strain of bacteria which causes food poisoning that is especially dangerous in pregnant women. It can cause premature birth, stillbirth or miscarriage.

The listeria bacteria are found in various foods such as soft cheeses, raw meat and poultry and unpasteurised milk.


Medical history A personal account of diseases and illnesses experienced by someone which may influence their health in the future. A doctor will ask a patient about their medical history in order to arrive at a diagnosis.



More commonly known as feeling sick.


A collection of fibres in the body which use electrical signals to send instructions from one part of the body to another.



A medical term used to describe the first signs of symptoms of a disease or illness, e.g. food poisoning.


Parasites Micro-organisms which live within food and/or water which multiply inside another organism and cause illnesses such as food poisoning.

Pasteurisation A form of heat treatment which is used to kill bacteria and microbes within milk and other foods, e.g. eggs. This process does not affect the taste or the overall quality of the milk. Unpasteurised milk and/or products can cause food poisoning.

Pathogenic A term used to describe micro-organisms which cause disease, for example salmonella bacteria. These bacteria are known to be harmful to humans.


None at present.


Reactive arthritis Previously known as Reiter’s Syndrome: this autoimmune disease affects the joints and can develop following an infection in any part of the body. Viral infections, HIV and food poisoning can trigger this disease.

Red blood cells These blood cells transport oxygen around the body.


Salmonella Bacterial strain which is pathogenic and a cause of food poisoning and other illnesses in humans. It is found within certain foods such as eggs, chicken and unpasteurised milk.

Shigella A lesser known bacteria which are found in the intestines of both animals and humans and causes dysentery and food poisoning. It occurs from eating contaminated food and causes a serious form of food poisoning which often affects young children.


A medical term for faeces. A doctor will ask for a stool sample in cases of suspected food poisoning in order to determine the actual cause. This sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis and confirmation of the source, e.g. bacteria.


Toxins The technical term for poisons which are produced by plants, animals and pathogenic bacteria. Toxins are responsible for a range of diseases which includes food poisoning.


Urinary system A system of organs within the body which is responsible for urine excretion. It consists of the kidneys, urethra and the bladder.


Virus A tiny infectious agent which multiplies inside a host cell within a living organism, e.g. humans and causes disease and infection.


None at present.

X, Y and Z

None at present.

Food Poisoning Guide

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