Sunday, September 13, 2009

Old & Young: E. Coli O157

Looks like E. Coli O157:H7 is causing mayhem again, affecting mainly children that visited a farm.

September 13, 2009

Godstone Farm/Gareth Fuller
"Thousands of children across the South of England may be at risk from the E. Coli 
bug in what looks to be the largest UK outbreak linked to transmission from farm animals.

"Godstone Farm in Surrey, a popular family attraction where children are encouraged to stroke and touch animals, is closed while the Health Protection Agency (HPA) conducts tests to find out the cause of the outbreak which has left 12 children in hospital, four of them in a serious condition.

"Thirty-six cases, including some adults, have been reported by GPs.
"About 1,000 children, mainly from South London, Surrey, Kent and Sussex, visit the farm every day during the school holidays and at weekends. It is feared that 30,000 children could be at risk of infection."

Remember Scotland 1996?
One of the first major E. Coli O157:H7 outbreak that affected mainly old people in the United Kingdom.
From the BMJ 1996;313:1424 (7 December)
E Coli O157 kills five people in Scotland
"An inquiry had been set up to examine the circumstances behind Britain's worst outbreak of food poisoning from Escherichia coli 0157, which has resulted in five deaths and left 280 people ill.
"The outbreak, in central Scotland, has been linked to cold and cooked meat products sold by a butcher, John Barr and Son, in the Lanarkshire town of Wishawand supplied to dozens of outlets in the surrounding area.

"The deaths have all occurred among elderly people, two of whom were among a group of pensioners who shared a meal at a church in Wishaw on 17 November. They had eaten a steak pie supplied by John Barr, and tests have since confirmed the presence of E coli bacteria in the gravy. It soon became clear, however, that the problem was not confined to Wishaw when people from a wider area began reporting symptoms."

E.Coli O157:H7 can be very virulent and it is believed that as little as 5 individual germs can cause serious damage especially by causing kidney failure. We have little understanding still of how bacteria act but it is now known that E. Coli O157: H7 uses Quorum Sensing. The condition at the farm must have been ideal for them.

We also need to understand about the proliferation of bacteria such as E. Coli and MRSA and C. difficile in our farm animals.

According to The Union of Concerned Scientists:
Microbial Drug Resistance 13(1):69-76.Akwar et al. 2007.
Risk factors for antimicrobial resistance among fecal Escherichia coli from residents on forty-three swine farms.
"Akwar et al. found that people living and working on swine farms where antibiotics were used in feed had increased chances of carrying resistant E. coli. In some cases, the risk of resistance for the farm workers was higher than if they had taken antibiotics themselves. Once farm workers are colonized by resistant bacteria they can transfer them to family members and others in their community."

The use of antibiotics in farm animals is widespread and is not restricted to the treatment of infections but for the enhancment of weight gain. In business terms it is the conversion ratio of feed to weight that matters. The Obama government may well be taking steps to control it due to the rising incidents of Hospital Infections. (See MRSA & Antibiotics: Obama & Farmers.) Chicken and other animals can grow up to twice as fast as 30 years ago when antibiotics were not in the feeds. Scary!
It may therefore require more than "washing hands" if we do not want more outbreaks like this and other ones.

Latest: Twins

1996 Report: Pennington Report

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