Saturday, 14 April 2012

Method Developed to Detect Stealthy, 'Hypervirulent' Salmonella Strains

Salmonella is the most common cause of infection, hospitalization, and death due to foodborne illness in the U.S. This burden may continue to worsen due to the emergence of new strains that would tax current health-control efforts. To address this problem, researchers sought out -- and found -- hypervirulent strains that present a potential risk to food safety and the livestock industry.

Now that researchers know what to look for, they are developing methods to rapidly detect and discriminate the more harmful strains from their less-virulent cousins. The strategy is aided by a special medium utilized by the researchers that forces the bacteria to reveal their weapons in the laboratory -- the first step in the design of therapeutics to combat them.
Humans usually get Salmonella food poisoning from eating contaminated beef, chicken, or eggs. However, animal waste can contaminate fields where fruits, nuts, and vegetables are grown, thus posing a particular health concern for vegetarians. The threat is exacerbated when these foods are not cooked. Salmonella control efforts are expensive -- recent estimates place this cost up to $14.6 billion annually in the U.S.
As hypervirulent strains pose a potential risk to human and animal health, mitigation efforts warrant researchers' careful attention. "Now that we have identified the problem -- and potential solutions -- we just need to get to work," Heithoff said

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