Nanobot viruses tag and round up bacteria in food and water

A PR which continues with the we’re-all-hosts-on-a-viral-planet themed, but gives some advice about how to work with nature to achieve goals.

Viruses engineered into “nanobots” can find and separate bacteria from food or water.

These viruses, called bacteriophages or just phages, naturally latch onto bacteria to infect them (SN: 7/12/03, p. 26). By tweaking the phages’ DNA and decking them out with magnetic nanoparticles, researchers created a tool that could both corral bacteria and force them to reveal themselves. These modifications can boost the sensitivity and speed of rooting out bacteria in tainted food or water, the researchers reported March 20 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

“You’re taking the power of what evolution has done … to bind bacteria, and then we’re just helping that out a little bit,” said Sam Nugen, a food and biosystems engineer who leads the team designing these phages at Cornell University.

Competing technologies for detecting bacteria use antibodies, the product of an immune response. But these are expensive to produce and work best in a narrow temperature and pH range. In contrast, phages “exist everywhere,” making them potentially more broadly useful as bacteria hunters, Nugen said. “They’ve had to evolve to bind well in much broader conditions than antibodies.”

Phages identify and grab bacteria using proteins on their leglike tail fibers, which form a strong bond with compounds on the bacterial cell surface. To infect the cell, the phage injects its genetic material. This hijacks the cell, forcing its machinery to produce phage clones.

Nugen and collaborators programmed phages to tag E. coli bacteria. The team’s engineered phages contained extra DNA that told the bacteria to make an easily detectable enzyme. When the infection caused the bacterial cells to rupture and release the new phages, a chemical reaction involving the enzyme produced a measurable signal: light, color or an electric current. For example, the phages exposed E. coli in milk and orange juice by turning the liquids red or pink.

The researchers also loaded the phages with nanoparticles with a magnetic iron and cobalt core. Once the phages latched onto the bacteria, researchers could use a magnet to round the bacteria up even before the bacteria ruptured and announced their presence. This allowed the researchers to detect low concentrations of bacteria: less than 10 E. coli cells in half a cup of water. Conventional methods grow the bacteria into colonies to find them, which can take up to two days. But using the phages, Nugen and his colleagues skipped this step and found the cells within a few hours.

Using phages for magnetic separation would be “really nice for food and environmental samples because they tend to be really dirty,” said Michael Wiederoder, a bioengineer at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts, who was not involved in the research. The salt, sugar and fats in food can slow the reactions of antibody-based tests, he said.

Also, the phages infect only bacteria that can reproduce, allowing testers to tell the difference between live cells and those killed by antibiotics, heat or chlorine. With food, “whether the bacteria are alive or dead is the difference between you getting sick and not,” Wiederoder said.

The nanobots could also prove useful for blood or other human samples. There, phages would provide a way to find resistant bacteria left alive after a course of antibiotics.

The next challenge: tinkering with the phages to tune which bacteria they go after. In nature, phages prey on specific species. But in food, it may be helpful to detect several common offenders, like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, or, alternatively, to have greater discrimination to find only the pathogenic E. coli and leave the rest.

Farm animals quarantined following crypto at Rhode Island petting zoo

I’m getting too old for this shit.

As John Prine famously sang, all the news just repeats itself.

Animals at a Middletown farm are being quarantined after three people got sick, Rhode Island health officials announced last week.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said one child and two adults came down with cryptosporidiosis after having contact with goats during “pet and cuddle” events at Simmons Farm on West Main Road on March 25 and 31.

“I have never been so sick,” one woman, who did not want to be identified, told NBC 10 News. “I had visited the farm on Saturday, March 31 and by Friday evening, I was extremely ill and it progressively got worse from there.”

She said she went to the hospital April 10 and a doctor asked if she had been to a farm.

“Today, I have had my first real meal and my stomach is already gurgling,” she said. “Up until tonight, I had six Saltines.”

About 60 goats and five cows are being quarantined, Simmons Farm owners told NBC 10 News. They will also be screened.

Natural green tofu and noodle products recalled in Ireland due to rodent

When shit gets in the tofu.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland reports all of the below listed products supplied or manufactured by Natural Green Limited, Stadium Business Park, Ballycoolin, Dublin are subject to recall due to rodent infestation at the supply site in Ireland. A Closure Order, under the FSAI Act 1998, was served by the HSE on the food business operator of the Stadium Business Park site.

My super-smart partner and I meet: Prion disease in Algerian camels

Amy says I shouldn’t cut-and-paste so much and that I’m better when I just write my own stuff.

Howard Stern’s wife said that to him, at least according to the movie version in Private Parts, 1997, but I counter with I only cut-and-paste the really interesting stuff.

Algeria, French and prions, we’re in a zone.

Everyone else is recall.net, where the copy is provided by 100K-a-year hacks who write and vomit press releases.

Journalism used to be a viable activity.

No worries, story-telling about the Tom-Wolfe-styled-vanities of the food safety privileged retain currency. And those stories are what I have been working on,

I’ll go with a Paul Giamatti,-style, who I am enjoying in Billions and was great in John Adams, Cinderella Man, American Splendor, and so on.

Everyone needs a Paul.

Or an Amy.

Her accomplishments over the seven years since we moved to Australia, including caretaking me and Sorenne, have been extraordinary.

Much love.

Prion disease in Dromedary camels, Algeria

6 June 2018

Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol 24, no 6

Baaissa Babelhadj, Michele Angelo Di Bari, Laura Pirisinu, Barbara Chiappini, Semir Bechir Suheil Gaouar, Geraldina Riccardi, Stefano Marcon, Umberto Agrimi, Romolo Nonno, and Gabriele Vaccari

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/24/6/17-2007_article

Prions cause fatal and transmissible neurodegenerative diseases, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, scrapie in small ruminants, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

After the BSE epidemic, and the associated human infections, began in 1996 in the United Kingdom, general concerns have been raised about animal prions.

We detected a prion disease in dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius) in Algeria. Symptoms suggesting prion disease occurred in 3.1% of dromedaries brought for slaughter to Ouargla abattoir in 2015–2016. We confirmed diagnosis by detecting pathognomonic neurodegeneration and disease-specific prion protein (PrPSc) in brain tissues from 3 symptomatic animals.

Prion detection in lymphoid tissues is suggestive of the infectious nature of the disease. PrPSc biochemical characterization showed differences with BSE and scrapie.

Our identification of this prion disease in a geographically widespread livestock species requires urgent enforcement of surveillance and assessment of the potential risks to human and animal health.

 

 

Rubber ducky you’re the one, who makes bacterial interactions so much fun

It’s a gotcha story, lots of bugs, nothing that would really make anyone sick, but familiarity with a child and a bathtub (or an adult).

Ceylan Yeginsu of The New York Times reports there’s an ugly truth about the rubber duck, the popular bathroom toy that children put in their mouths and use to squeeze bath water into their siblings’ faces.

Something yucky is likely to be inside, scientists say: “potentially pathogenic bacteria” that can cause eye, ear and stomach infections.

A study by American and Swiss researchers found that toy ducks appeared to be a breeding ground for microbes. The murky water released from four out of every five ducks tested included Legionella along with Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, often associated with infections acquired in hospitals, the authors of the study said.

So don’t play with a rubber duck in a hospital.

The study, conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, ETH Zurich and the University of Illinois, was published on Tuesday in the journal N.P.J. Biofilms and Microbiomes.

The researchers tested a range of bath toys, 19 different ones, and found 75 million cells of bacteria per square centimeter in the ducks — a strikingly high level that scientists say was a result of their polymer material releasing carbon, which acts as a nutrient for bacteria.

 “In addition to the nutrient supply, dirty bath water also serves as a further source of microbial seeding for the bath toys,” the researchers noted.

They suggested that using a higher-quality polymer to make the rubber ducks might prevent bacterial and fungal growth.

The study, which received funding from the Swiss government, is part of broader research into bacteria on household objects.

UK health officials finger C. perfringens as source of over 60 illnesses at pub

Those 60-plus diners that got sick at the Old Farmhouse pub on Mother’s Day in Somerset, UK, were stricken with Clostridium perfringens.

PHE South West Consultant in Health Protection Dr Bayad Nozad said: “C. perfringens live normally in the human and animal intestine and in the environment.

“The illness is usually caused by eating food contaminated with large numbers of C. perfringens bacteria that produce enough toxin in the intestines to cause illness.”

The Old Farmhouse, owned by brewery chain Hall and Woodhouse, temporarily closed its kitchen while investigations were underway.

Samples were then taken in order to identify the cause of the sickness outbreak.

Dr Nozad said: “It is good news that the majority of affected individuals appear to have recovered quickly.

“Our advice for anyone else affected is to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

“We are currently working with Environmental Health Officers from North Somerset Council to ensure that the venue have appropriate precautions and procedures in place.”

North Somerset Council environmental health officers have say the venue is now operating under their guidance.

Tests show NZ beef sector so far free of M. bovis

Emma left this morning.

Emma has always been a special person in our lives, and especially Sorenne’s.

When Amy was pregnant almost 10 years ago at Kansas State University, we talked about getting some early childhood education students to help out, so I could work and Amy could write.

Never had to post the ad.

Emma was a student in one of Dr. Amy’s French classes, noticed she was pregnant, and asked, are you going to need help with that baby?

Emma became one of our helpers.

This was in the U.S., with six weeks maternity leave, rather than Canada, with six months maternity leave (plus a whole bunch more parental leave, in Canada).

Emma now lives in New Zealand with her partner, the veterinarian, and took advantage of the long weekend to have a visit.

To watch Emma and her partner experiment and flourish over the past 10 years has been a delight.

But this story is for the dude, since he works at MPI in New Zealand, whose $3 billion beef export sector seems to be free so far of the serious new cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

The Ministry for Primary Industries, which is attempting to contain an outbreak of the disease in dairy cattle by a mass slaughter of more than 22,000 dairy cattle before the beginning of June, said there had been no positive results from its testing of beef animals.

The beef and dairy sectors work closely in New Zealand through dairy calf rearing and dairy grazing with about 80 per cent of premium beef cattle production originating from the dairy herd.

In response to a Herald inquiry, an MPI spokeswoman said the risk profile for M. bovis in beef farming was very different to that of dairying because of how beef is raised in New Zealand.

“Generally beef cattle are farmed extensively in pasture and are not fed risky discarded calf milk.

“We looked into this carefully and determined the beef stock at greatest risk were those that were raised in feed lots – not that common in New Zealand.”

With the support of industry good organisation Beef+Lamb, MPI had carried out some surveillance of cattle in feed lots, mostly in the South Island, the epicentre of the M. bovis outbreak.

“The animals were tested at slaughter in order to take samples … there were no positive results,” the spokeswoman said.

“We also consider that many dairy beef animals were tested in the response as part of our tests on neighbouring farms to infected properties. Again, no positives were found.”
Meanwhile, newly released MPI reports on M. bovis investigations since the first outbreak last July said “confluence of multiple rare events” could have allowed the bacterial disease into New Zealand, possibly as long ago as 2015.

One of the three released reports identifies seven potential pathways for the disease but finds all “improbable – yet one of them resulted in entry”.

The risk pathways investigated were imported embyros, imported frozen bull semen, imported live cattle, imported feed, imported used farm equipment, and other imported live animals. A seventh pathway was redacted from the reports along with all discussion about it, but the Herald can confirm it was imported veterinary medicines and biological products.

MPI has opted to try to contain the disease with a mass cull of cattle on 28 quarantined properties, all but one in the South Island, because it believes it is not yet well established in New Zealand. The first outbreak of the disease was on a large-scale dairying business in the South Island. However, the MPI reports suggest it may have been introduced in mid-2016 or even earlier.

Vibrio cholerae on Vancouver Island linked to herring eggs

Island Health says it is investigating confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae infection contracted by people who ate herring eggs on Vancouver Island.

The health authority is now warning the public not to consume herring eggs found on kelp, seaweed or other surfaces that have been harvested from the French Creek to Qualicum Bay area, as they could be tainted.

Island Health did not specify how many people fell ill from eating the herring eggs or how severe their symptoms were.

Vibrio cholerae is a bacterium found in water that can cause intestinal illness including the disease cholera. 

It called the situation “unique” and said it will release more information as it becomes available.

Still waiting.

Raw is risky: Brucellosis from unpasteurized milk in Texas

In July 2017, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Region 2/3 office reported a human case of brucellosis associated with the consumption of raw (unpasteurized) cow’s milk purchased from a dairy in Paradise, Texas. CDC’s Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch (BSPB) confirmed the isolate as Brucella abortus vaccine strain RB51 (RB51).

Brucellosis is a zoonotic bacterial disease that affects humans and many animal species. In humans, the disease is characterized by fever and nonspecific influenza-like symptoms that frequently include myalgia, arthralgia, and night sweats. Without appropriate treatment, brucellosis can become chronic, and life-threatening complications can arise. Human brucellosis transmitted by cattle was once common in the United States. Control strategies have focused on elimination of brucellosis through vaccination and surveillance of cattle herds, in addition to milk pasteurization. Because of these measures, domestically acquired human cases are now rare (1).

RB51, a live-attenuated vaccine used to prevent B. abortus infection in cattle, has been documented to cause human disease, most commonly through occupational exposures such as needle sticks (2). Importantly, unlike wild strains of B. abortus, RB51 does not stimulate an antibody response detectable by routine serological assays, requiring culture for confirmation. Additionally, RB51 is resistant to rifampin, a common treatment choice for human brucellosis (2,3). This case represents the first documented instance of human brucellosis caused by RB51 through consumption of raw milk acquired in the United States.

Following isolation of RB51 from the patient’s blood, bulk milk tank samples from the farm tested positive for RB51 by polymerase chain reaction and bacterial culture. Culture of individual milk samples from all 43 cows in the herd identified two RB51 culture-positive cows. Subsequent whole genome sequencing indicated genetic relatedness between the cow and human isolate.

In Texas, farm sales of raw milk products to the public are legal with a “Grade ‘A’ Raw for Retail” license, regulated by the DSHS Milk and Dairy Group. By the end of August, through correspondence with the dairy, DSHS had identified approximately 800 persons who might have visited the farm during June 1–August 7. On September 1, Texas DSHS and BSPB began notification calls to these households, recommending that all exposed persons (i.e., those who consumed raw milk products from the farm during June 1–August 7) seek medical attention and begin 3 weeks of postexposure prophylaxis, even if asymptomatic (4).

Contact information was available for 582 households. The notification was issued successfully to 397 (68.2%) households. Among these notified households, 324 (81.6%) identified at least one exposed household member. Contacted persons referred 34 additional potentially exposed households, including households from seven other states.* A nationwide press release and Health Alert Network Health Advisory were issued in September to facilitate further identification of exposed persons (5).

To date, there are no other confirmed cases associated with this investigation. CDC and Texas DSHS continue measures to increase awareness among health care providers and the public regarding unique challenges associated with treatment and diagnosis of RB51 in humans and the risks of consuming raw milk.

Notes from the Field: Brucella abortus vaccine strain RB51 infection and exposures associated with raw milk consumption

09.mar.18

CDC

Caitlin Cossaboom

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6709a4.htm?s_cid=mm6709a4_w

Raw is risky: Kitten death and recall

I’d somehow dropped off the Worms & Germs Blog, hosted by my former hockey friend-buddy-guy Scott Weese at the University of Guelph, in the same way people lose barfblog.com.

We’re both still here (he’s in the back row, third from left, I’m the goalie in black, 13 years ago).

Resubscribe.

Scott writes about recent raw pet food outbreaks that, I haven’t written much lately about recalls of raw pet food because of Salmonella contamination. In large part that’s because it’s an expected event. There’s a reason we cook food…to kill things that can make us sick. We assume that raw meat intended for our consumption is contaminated with bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella (because it often is). Therefore, we similarly expect raw meat for pet consumption to be frequently contaminated. Various research studies have confirmed that.

A recent recall highlights the issues and risks. The recall involves Blue Ridge Beef of Eatontown, Georgia. They are recalling “Kitten grind” (an unfortunate name, in my opinion…but that’s a different story) after consumer complaints of deaths of two kittens. One death was confirmed to have been the result of Salmonella. Salmonella and Listeria were identified in the food (although it’s not clear to me whether it was the same strain and the same lot). Regardless, it’s not too surprising. Salmonella contamination of raw meat is common and while disease in animals is fortunately rare, it can happen, sometimes with fatal consequences.

This should be a reminder that handling and feeding raw meat is a risk for acquisition of pathogens such as Salmonella. My main recommendation is ‘don’t feed raw’. That’s particularly true in households where there are high-risk people (e.g. young kids, elderly individuals, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals) or high-risk animals (same types as for people). If someone’s determined to feed raw, it’s important to reduce the risk as much as possible.