New class of antibiotics may be capable of killing superbugs

When I was younger my mother got me a job in a hospital as a nurse’s aide while I finished my studies at university. As part of my duties I had to ensure patients that had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were well taken care of. I was in my second year of University at that time and was vaguely familiar with this bug. Then came vancomycin resistant Enterococcus (VRE).
I left.

Anne Stych of Biz Women reports

Scientists studying microorganisms living in soil have discovered a new class of antibiotics that could kill deadly superbugs without triggering resistance.
The discovery leads researchers to believe there’s “a reservoir of antibiotics in the environment we haven’t accessed yet,” said Sean Brady, an associate professor at Rockefeller University in New York, who led the study.
The research, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, said the newly-discovered antibiotics kill superbugs including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a potentially deadly infection that is resistant to several antibiotics.
A team led by Brady discovered the new class of antibiotics, called malacidins, while cloning and sequencing DNA from microorganisms in soil samples contributed by people across the United States, The Washington Post reported.
They were looking for microorganisms with a known gene that acts as an “on/off” switch and makes it more difficult for microbes to develop antibiotic resistance, per the Post.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last month called antibiotic resistance a “serious situation” worldwide in both low-income and high-income countries.
The organization’s research showed that resistance to commonly-used antibiotics varied widely among the 22 reporting countries, with resistance to penicillin in bacterial pneumonia cases ranging from zero to 51 percent, while E coli bacteria antibiotic resistance levels ranged from 8 percent to 65.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year at least 2 million people in the United States become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. At least 23,000 people die as a direct result, while many more die of conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.
Worldwide, deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections are predicted to reach10 million a year by 2050, per the Post.
“Some of the world’s most common — and potentially most dangerous — infections are proving drug-resistant,“ said Dr . Marc Sprenger, director of the WHO Antimicrobial Resistance Secretariat. “And most worrying of all, pathogens don’t respect national borders. That’s why WHO is encouraging all countries to set up good surveillance systems for detecting drug resistance that can provide data to this global system.”
Researchers said although the discovery is promising and reveals the untapped biodiversity of our ecosystem, it will take years for the new class of antibiotics to be developed for practical use.

 

Yup, they get into produce seeds, especially sprouts: Salmonella and E. coli internalization

Vegetable seeds contaminated with bacterial pathogens have been linked to fresh-produce-associated outbreaks of gastrointestinal infections. This study was undertaken to observe the physiological behavior of Salmonella enterica and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) cells artificially internalized into vegetable seeds during the germination process.

Surface-decontaminated seeds of alfalfa, fenugreek, lettuce, and tomato were vacuum-infiltrated with four individual strains of Salmonella or EHEC. Contaminated seeds were germinated at 25°C for 9 days, and different sprout/seedling tissues were microbiologically analyzed every other day. The internalization of Salmonella and EHEC cells into vegetable seeds was confirmed by the absence of pathogens in seed-rinsing water and the presence of pathogens in seed homogenates after post-internalization seed surface decontamination.

Results show that 317 (62%) and 343 (67%) of the 512 collected sprout/seedling tissue samples were positive for Salmonella and EHEC, respectively. The average Salmonella populations were significantly larger (P < 0.05) than the EHEC populations. Significantly larger Salmonella populations were recovered from the cotyledon and seed coat tissues, followed by the root tissues, but the mean EHEC populations from all sampled tissue sections were statistically similar, except in pre-germinated seeds. Three Salmonella and two EHEC strains had significantly larger cell populations on sprout/seedling tissues than other strains used in the study.

Salmonella and EHEC populations from fenugreek and alfalfa tissues were significantly larger than those from tomato and lettuce tissues. The study showed the fate of internalized human pathogens on germinating vegetable seeds and sprout/seedling tissues and emphasized the importance of using pathogen-free seeds for sprout production.

Fate of Salmonella enterica and Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli cells artificially internalized into vegetable seeds during germination

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. January 2018 84:e01888-17; Accepted manuscript posted online 27 October 2017, doi:10.1128/AEM.01888-17

Da Liu, Yue Cui, Ronald Walcott and Jinru Chen

http://aem.asm.org/content/84/1/e01888-17.abstract?etoc

 

 

California sisters fighting to recover from E. coli

The Public Health Agency of Canada may think Shiga-toxin producing E. coli is no biggie, but tell that to the Niles sisters of southern California, who were both hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

ABC 30 reports that Mariska and Willow were active and healthy kids with no medical history. Their parents thought it was a terrible case of the flu. Originally their pediatrician thought it was norovirus. But after days of worsening symptoms, they were admitted to Valley Children’s Hospital with E. coli.

13-year-old Mariska Niles is finally starting to improve after 16 days in the hospital. She’s had more blood transfusions than she can count along with excruciating stomach pain and she was hallucinating.

The sisters were diagnosed with E. coli HUS or typical hemolytic uremic syndrome but the girls had unique cases.

Dr. Molly Dorfman said, “There’s was pretty atypical. Particularly the severity of Willow’s case was very very severe.”

This form of bacteria usually originates from contaminated food or water products. Pinpointing the exact source has been difficult. They haven’t traveled anywhere recently. The family hadn’t eaten out lately. It’s likely other family members also ate what the girls did but did not become violently ill. Even more puzzling, Mariska and Willow rarely eat the same things.

9-year-old Willow’s kidney’s still are not working. She has been debilitated by toxins from the infection, and at one point couldn’t wake up. Both sisters have had blood transfusion and dialysis.

Steam with your melons? If it makes produce safer, why not

Abstract

The purpose of this study was evaluation of the effectiveness of superheated steam (SHS) on inactivation of foodborne pathogens on cantaloupes and watermelons.

Saturated steam (SS) treatment was performed at 100 °C and that of SHS at 150 and 200 °C. Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella Typhimurium and Listeria monocytogenes-inoculated cantaloupes and watermelons were exposed for a maximum of 30 s and 10 s, respectively. Populations of the three pathogens on cantaloupes and watermelons were reduced by more than 5 log after 200 °C steam treatment for 30 s and 10 s, respectively. After SHS treatment of cantaloupes and watermelons for each maximum treatment time, color and maximum load values were not significantly different from those of untreated controls. By using a noncontact 3D surface profiler, we found that surface characteristics, especially surface roughness, is the main reason for differences in microbial inactivation between cantaloupes and watermelons. The results of this study suggest that SHS treatment can be used as an antimicrobial intervention for cantaloupes and watermelons without inducing quality deterioration.

Comparison of the effect of saturated and superheated steam on the inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella Typhimurium and Listeria monocytogenes on cantaloupe and watermelon surfaces, Korea, April 2017 to October 2017, Food Microbiology, Volume 72

Sun-Ah Kwon, Won-Jae Song, Dong-Hyun Kang

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740002017303805?_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_origin=gateway&_docanchor=&md5=b8429449ccfc9c30159a5f9aeaa92ffb&ccp=y

Hucksterism fail: Ells out as CEO at Chipotle

Joe Rubino of The Denver Post writes the man who turned a tiny burrito shop near the University of Denver into an international brand will soon be out as Chipotle Mexican Grill’s CEO.

Steve Ells, the founder of the Denver-based fast-casual chain, will leave his post as chairman and CEO to become executive chairman after a replacement has been found, the company announced Wednesday.

A committee that includes Ells and directors Ali Namvar and Robin Hickenlooper, wife of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, has been formed to find a leader with demonstrated turnaround expertise, the company said.

Whoever takes the job will be tasked with helping the chain climb out of protracted market malaise caused, in part, by outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to some of its restaurants, first in 2015, then again earlier this year

Co-CEO Monty Moran stepped down in December, leaving Ells with control of the company as it faced pressures from activist investor Bill Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital hedge fund took a nearly 10 percent stake in September 2016. Ackman said then that he wanted improvement in Chipotle’s “operations, cost structure, management and strategy.”

What’s in your weed?

In Hawaii, one of the testing labs certified by the state to check the quality of medical marijuana said they found contamination in more than half of the samples from the black market.   

The lab, Steep Hill Hawaii, says over 50 percent of the black market product had contaminants that included mold, yeast, and pesticides. 

The lab says that doesn’t mean all homegrown products are bad, but patients should be aware of what’s in their medicine. 

“I personally was shocked to find out how much stuff was in black market cannabis that you would never expect. E. coli, which comes from fecal matter. Salmonella, which comes from raw egg and chicken. We found that on product we tested,” said Michael Covington, of Steep Hill Hawaii. 

In Canada, CannaDrinks may be all the rage in some parts of the world, but there are some serious health concerns surrounding new products being formulated.

Sure it sounds cool, to order some cannabis-infused drinks at the bar for you and your buddies. However, a leading food safety expert is warning that these cool drinks may be dangerous, and the public (apparently) needs to take note.

While a $245 million deal was penned between Constellation Brands and Canopy Growth last week, for a 10 percent stake of CP, Canada’s largest cannabis producer, to produce the new CannaDrinks, Rick Holley claims the drinks are problematic, “[Producers] could screw this all up if they don’t get into the mechanics of how to safely prepare and develop new food products,” he said, adding, “They could kill people!”

BNN reported that Constellation Brands told them via email that the company, “has a long-standing commitment to producing products with the highest quality standards and that comply with all regulations.”

According to Lawrence Goodridge, a McGill University food safety expert (Larry, you’re an expert), alcohol has the advantage of killing bacteria and toxins in sealed bottles or cans, whereas cannabis-infused products may not, “Because cannabis is a plant, there are certain concerns — like the possibility of pesticides used in production, or the type of fertilizer used, or the potential presence of heavy metals that could be toxic to humans,” said Goodridge, adding that, “Bacteria like e-coli or listeria that could be on the plant and that could make it onto the food, whether it is drinks or edibles, the risk is the same — but alcohol is special because we know that helps to kill some of those toxins.”

Also, Sikora et al. identified a case of Hepatitis A associated with cannabis use.

We identified a case of acute Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection linked to cannabis use. The local Public Health department received report of a man in his mid-20s with a classic presentation of hepatitis – jaundice, abdominal pain, vomiting, general malaise, and dark urine – as well as elevated serum aminotransferase levels and a positive anti-HAV IgM. Upon questioning, he reported no contact with ill individuals, or travel outside his metropolitan area. His exclusive source of water was the local municipal supply. He reported consuming mainly pre-packaged lower risk foods from large chain-style supermarket stores and eating at several local restaurants. While administering the questionnaire, the investigator identified that the patient smoked cannabis. Upon request, the patient agreed to provide a sample of cannabis for testing purposes. A viral elution of fresh cannabis leaves was completed. The sequences derived from the patient’s serum sample and the eluate from the cannabis leaves were identical, but did not match any other HAV sub-genotype 1B sequences from Canadian isolates within the National Microbiology Laboratory database. Hepatitis A virus can survive >60 days when dried and kept at room temperature and low humidity; HAV can remain infectious in water at room temperature for 300 days. It cannot be concluded with certainty that the cannabis was the source of the hepatitis A; however, as other sources were excluded, or were of lesser probability, the association of cannabis with his disease acquisition remains strong.

 

Ready-to-eat meals may be popular but have risks

Eugene Boisvert of Au News writes that more than 40 per cent of ready-to-eat meals tested by South Australian health types contained an unsatisfactory level of bacteria, according to survey results published in the Eastern Health Authority’s annual report this month.

The SA Health survey said one of the tested meals contained 310 times the safe level of Bacillus cereus, and another had almost 13 times the safe level of E. coli, which comes from feces.

Out of 98 meals bought at local supermarkets and shops with a shelf life of 10 or more days, 42 had an unsatisfactory microorganism count.

Eastern Health Authority chief executive Michael Livori said more small businesses were trying to capitalise on the growing popularity of ready-to-eat meals without understanding the health risks involved.

“Most manufacturers who are normally in this business will (understand the risks) but there’s an increase in small businesses or retailers getting into this realm but not without risk,” Mr Livori said.

The SA Health survey and subsequent report, published in June, was sparked by Eastern Health Authority concerns about the standard of manufacturing processes of ready-to-eat meals.

The SA Health report recommended measures to prevent bacteria growing in ready-to-eat meals, including that they be heated to at least 90C for 10 minutes when being cooked.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Health Authority issued 10 businesses with prohibition orders in 2016/17, banning them from preparing, selling or transporting food until they cleaned up their act, compared with three in the previous two financial years.

85 sick with shiga-toxin E. coli at Marines base

About 85 U.S. Marines-in-training remained ill last week after an apparent shiga-toxin producing E. coli outbreak at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Camp Pendleton amid a week-old outbreak of diarrheal illnesses at the military installations, authorities reported.

Among the medical cases were 19 new ones diagnosed since Oct. 31, 2017, according to MCRD public affairs. In all, 16 recruits were receiving treatment at an off-base hospital, with the remainder being cared for at military medical facilities.

Base officials initially announced a total of about 300 cases of intestinal ailments at the 2 San Diego-area installations on Oct. 30, 2017.

 That tally was down to roughly 215 a day later. The cause or causes of the debilitating bacterial exposure remain under investigation.

12-year-old Oklahoma girl lives with constant reminder of E. coli outbreak nine years ago

In Aug. 2008, 26-year-old Chad Ingle had a meal at the Country Cottage in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, a popular family-owned buffet-style restaurant.

Nine days later, Chad was dead from E. coli O111.

By the end of the outbreak, 341 people had been sickened with E. coli O111, all from eating at the country diner in a town of 1,423 people.

A paper describing the investigation was published in 2011 in Epidemiology and Infection and concluded from epidemiological evidence the outbreak resulted from cross-contamination of restaurant food from food preparation equipment or surfaces, or from an unidentified infected food handler.

Ethan Hutchins of ABC News writes that at first glance Machaela Ybarra is a typical 12-year-old going through the struggles any pre-teen faces. But like the words on the pages of her textbooks, Machaela has a story to tell, a story she only wishes was fiction.

“Whenever I understood what happened to me, I couldn’t believe it,” said Ybarra.

Machaela was just 2 when she contracted E. coli. It happened at Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove.

A Sunday afternoon lunch nine years ago changed Machaela’s life forever.

“It sounds scary even though I don’t remember much,” said Ybarra.

Her mother will never forget that day. Christina Ybarra still knows what her daughter ate: Fried chicken, meatloaf, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy.

“It was a buffet so we went and got one plate, her and I both ate off of it and I didn’t get sick at all,” said Christina Ybarra.

It’s a miracle, she says, since Christina was seven months pregnant at the time with Machaela’s little sister.

Of the hundreds who got sick from E. coli, one person died. The restaurant closed, but was back in business two months later, and now years later Country Cottage remains open. Folks here in town say they still eat here, not blaming the restaurant for those dark days years ago.

No one in Locust Grove at the restaurant or even with the city likes to talk about the outbreak. It’s fair to say, it’s a bad time most people there would like to forget.

But for Machaela, there are daily reminders.

“I’m on seizure medication because I can just stare sometimes and just be unconscious,” said Ybarra.

 

UK woman critically ill with E.coli O55

A young woman from Guildford has been left in a critical condition in hospital after she contracted E.coli O55.

Alexander Brock of Get Surrey writes the victim and her sister, whose family have asked us not to name, both fell ill within hours of each other on Saturday September 16.

Public Health England (PHE) confirmed it was investigating “a confirmed case of E.coli O55 in Surrey.”

The eldest of the two sisters, aged 22, recovered after a few days of having symptoms such as diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

However, the health of the younger sister, 19, quickly deteriorated and she was rushed to Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford a few days after becoming ill.

She then suffered kidney failure, which developed into hemolytic uremic syndrome.

This led to several of her organs failing, including her heart. The woman has been in critical condition at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London since September 27.

The strain has been confirmed as E.coli O55, which 31 people contracted in an outbreak in Dorset between July 2014 and November 2015.

In a statement, PHE added there had been other recorded E.coli cases in children in neighbouring areas which have been “identified as being potentially linked.”