Tuesday March 26, 2019

Strain of E. Coli Spread From Poultry to People, Study Suggests

Many people think of urinary tract infections (UTIs) as a common and minor annoyance, but invasive UTIs that involve the kidneys or blood can be life-threatening

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Poultry, Produce Industry
Over 80% of UTIs caused by E.coli is found in poultry. Pixabay

A strain of Escherichia coli (E.coli) found in retail chicken and turkey products may cause a wide range of urinary tract infections in people, a new study has found.

While it was known that E. coli could be passed from person-to-person in the community and in hospitals, the study, provided evidence that the bacterium lurking in fresh poultry products can be passed to people, leading to bladder infections and other serious conditions.

Researchers from the George Washington University, in the US, found that E.coli ST131 — the most common type infecting the people — was present in nearly 80 per cent of the 2,452 meat samples and in 72 per cent of the positive urine and blood cultures from patients in the study.

“In the past, we could say that E.coli from people and poultry were related to one another, but with this study, we can more confidently say that the E.coli went from poultry to people and not vice versa,” said Lance B. Price, Professor from the varsity.

They also discovered that almost all of the E.coli ST131 on the poultry products belonged to a particular strain called ST131-H22 and carried genes that helps E.coli thrive in birds.

Poultry
Poultry birds. Pixabay

This same poultry-adapted strain was also found to be causing UTIs in people.

More than 80 per cent of UTIs are caused by E.coli, however, only a few strains are responsible for most of the serious infections.

For the study, published in the journal mBio, the team conducted a one-year longitudinal study where they analysed retail chicken, turkey and pork from Arizona.

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According to Price, the findings underscore the importance of cooking poultry thoroughly and handling it carefully in the kitchen.

Many people think of urinary tract infections (UTIs) as a common and minor annoyance, but invasive UTIs that involve the kidneys or blood can be life-threatening. (IANS)

Next Story

Produce Industry In The U.S. To Step Up Produce Safety Due To Recent Outbreaks

Stephen Basore, director of food safety at a Florida romaine grower, said he expects more regulations and self-imposed industry guidelines.

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Lettuce, E.coli, Produce Industry
Romaine lettuce sits on the shelves as a shopper walks through the produce area of an Albertsons market in Simi Valley, Calif. VOA

After repeated food poisoning outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce, the produce industry is confronting the failure of its own safety measures in preventing contaminations.

The E. coli outbreak announced just before Thanksgiving follows one in the spring that sickened more than 200 people and killed five, and another last year that sickened 25 and killed one.

No deaths have been reported in the latest outbreak, but the dozens of illnesses highlight the challenge of eliminating risk for vegetables grown in open fields and eaten raw, the role of nearby cattle operations that produce huge volumes of manure and the delay of stricter federal food safety regulations.

A contested aspect of the regulation, for example, would require testing irrigation water for E. coli. The Food and Drug Administration put the measure on hold when the produce industry said such tests wouldn’t necessarily help prevent outbreaks. Additional regulations on sanitation for workers and equipment — other potential sources of contamination — only recently started being implemented.

 

Lettuce, E.Coli, Produce Industry
A crew member stands in a pile of discarded romaine lettuce leaves while working near Soledad, Calif., May 3, 2017. A current outbreak of E. coli traced to romaine lettuce has sickened 50 people in the U.S. and Canada. VOA

 

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he thinks the combination of rules, once fully in place, will make vegetables safer to eat.

“I don’t think any one element of this is going to be the magic bullet,” Gottlieb said.

Health officials say improved detection may make outbreaks seem more frequent. Still, that is intensifying pressure on growers and regulators to prevent, catch and contain contamination.

Prevention

It’s not yet known how romaine got contaminated in the latest outbreak.

The spring outbreak was traced to romaine from Yuma, Arizona. Irrigation water tainted with manure was identified as a likely culprit, and investigators noted the presence of a large animal feeding operation nearby.

Subsequently, growers in Arizona and California adjusted an industry agreement to expand buffer zones between vegetable fields and livestock. The industry says the change was in place for lettuce now being grown in Yuma, which hasn’t been implicated in the latest outbreak. But Trevor Suslow of the Produce Marketing Association said there isn’t consensus about the exact distances that might effectively prevent contamination.

 

Poultry, Produce Industry
Over 80% of UTIs caused by E.coli is found in poultry. Pixabay

 

He noted specific buffer zones aren’t required by the new federal rules on produce safety.

“They look to the industry to determine what is the appropriate distance,” Suslow said.

Growers in Yuma also started treating irrigation water that would touch plant leaves with chlorine to kill potential contaminants, Suslow said. But he said such treatment raises concerns about soil and human health.

Meanwhile, the proximity of produce fields to cattle operations is likely to continue posing a problem. Travis Forgues of the milk producer Organic Valley noted consolidation in the dairy industry is leading to bigger livestock operations that produce massive volumes of manure.

Testing

Already, the industry agreement in Arizona and California requires leafy green growers to test water for generic E. coli.

But James Rogers, director of food safety research at Consumer Reports, said it’s important to make water testing a federal requirement. Since romaine is often chopped up and bagged, a single contaminated batch from one farm that skips testing could make a lot of people sick, he said.

 

robot, produce industry
A robotic arm lifts plants being grown at Iron Ox, a robotic indoor farm, in San Carlos, California. VOA

 

Teressa Lopez of the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement also said federal regulation can ensure greater compliance, even though the industry agreement has stricter measures.

Despite industry measures implemented after a spinach outbreak more than a decade ago, health officials note d this month there have been 28 E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens since 2009.

The produce industry says the failure to prevent the Yuma outbreak could also reflect the limitations of testing water for generic E. coli.

Elizabeth Binh, a food science expert at Cornell University, said the tests look for the amount of fecal matter in water. The problem is, “some feces has pathogens in it, some feces doesn’t,” said Binh, who is part of a federal program helping farmers comply with the new produce regulations.

Testing for specific E. coli strains that are harmful is more difficult, and doesn’t rule out the possibility of other harmful bacteria, Binh said.

E.Coli, Produce Industry
Scientists compared faecal samples from 300 surfers and non-surfers to assess whether the surfers’ guts contained E.coli bacteria that were able to grow in the presence of cefotaxime. Pixabay

Containment

Whole-genome sequencing is making it easier to detect outbreaks, which is pressuring the produce industry.

The FDA warned against all romaine last week because it said it was able to identify it as a likely source early enough. The agency narrowed its warning to romaine from California’s Central Coast after the produce industry agreed to label romaine with harvest dates and regions, so people know what’s OK to eat.

The labeling is voluntary, and the industry said it will evaluate whether to extend it to other leafy greens. Gottlieb said improving traceability would allow targeted health alerts that don’t hurt the entire industry. The FDA recently hired a former Walmart executive who used blockchain technology to improve traceability in the retailer’s supply chain.

Also Read: Researchers Develop New Test To Detect E.Coli In Food Quickly

Stephen Basore, director of food safety at a Florida romaine grower, said he expects more regulations and self-imposed industry guidelines.

“Anytime there is an issue, the immediate response is saying our protocols aren’t enough,” he said. (VOA)