What makes foot-and-mouth so infectious?

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious infection of cloven-hoofed animals that affects agricultural production and herd fertility. Global economic losses due to the disease have been estimated at between $6.5 billion and $22.5 billion each year, with the world’s poorest farmers hardest hit. 

A team of scientists from the Leeds and the University of Ilorin, in Nigeria, has investigated the significance of the unusual way the virus’s genome – or genetic blueprint – codes for the manufacture of a protein called 3B.  The protein is involved in the replication of the virus.

Researchers have known for some time that the virus’ genetic blueprint contains three separate codes or instructions for the manufacture of 3B. Each code produces a similar but not identical copy of 3B. Up to now, scientists have not been able to explain the significance of having three different forms of the protein.

In a paper, “Functional advantages of triplication of the 3B coding region of the FMDV genome”, published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, the Leeds researchers reveal the results of a series of laboratory experiments which has demonstrated that having multiple forms of 3B gives the virus a competitive advantage, increasing its chances of survival. 

Dr Oluwapelumi Adeyemi, formerly a researcher at Leeds and now with the University of Ilorin and one of the paper’s lead authors, said: “Our experiments have shown that having three forms of 3B gives the virus an advantage and that probably plays a role in why the virus is so successful in infecting its hosts.

“It is not as straightforward as saying because there are three forms of 3B – it is going to be three times as competitive. There is a more nuanced interplay going on which needs further investigation.”

The paper describes how the scientists manipulated the genetic code, creating viral fragments with one form of 3B, two different forms of 3B and all three forms of 3B. Each was then measured to see how well they replicated. 

They found there was a competitive advantage – greater replication – in those samples that had more than one copy of 3B.

Dr Joe Ward, post-doctoral researcher at Leeds’ School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, and second co-lead author of the study, added: “The results of the data analysis were clear in that having multiple copies of the 3B protein gives the virus a competitive advantage. In terms of future research, the focus will be on why is that the case, and how the virus uses these multiple copies to its advantage.

“If we can begin to answer that question, then there is a real possibility we will identify interventions that could control this virus.”
The study involved using harmless viral fragments and replicons, fragments of RNA molecules, the chemical that make up the virus’s genetic code. 

 

What makes foot-and-mouth so infectious?

01.dec.20

Immunology and Microbiology

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How Aussies are getting food poisoning from takeaways they are buying from home cooks on facebook — as health authorities issue a warning

Eliza McPhee of the Daily Mail wrote in Sept. that Australians have been warned not to indulge in any takeaway meals offered on Facebook Marketplace with fears the cheap food could lead to food poisoning.

Curries, noodles, cooked meat, desserts, rice dishes and even raw sausages are just some of the items on offer on the advertising platform with some starting at $8.

But the Food Safety Information Council has warned it’s highly likely the home chefs aren’t meeting food safety requirements.

Cathy Moir, chair of the health promotion charity said they became aware of the ‘illegal’ practice in May after noticing a string of ‘high-risk’ foods were being sold online.

‘These unregulated food sales are a considerable food safety risk. There is a real risk of food poisoning, which, in its worst form can have severe health consequences,’ Ms Moir said. 

‘Not only that, it is illegal. Government and local council enforcement agencies are clamping down on these unregistered food businesses, as and when they become aware of them.

‘However, new sellers keep popping up and this is putting a considerable strain on our health services.’

Advertising food does not go against any rules of Facebook Marketplace which is commonly used to buy and sell clothes or furniture.

But Ms Moir said cooking at home couldn’t ensure the same level of health and safety as registered businesses would have. 

Kitchen hygiene in the spotlight: How cooking shows influence viewers’ hygiene practices

Poor hygiene when handling food is a major cause of foodborne illness. To investigate whether hygiene practices visible in television cooking shows influence viewers’ kitchen hygiene, a study on the adoption of demonstrated hygiene behavior was conducted under controlled, experimental conditions.

In a study ostensibly on cooking by following recipes participants (n = 65) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, in which they watched a cooking video that differed only with regard to the hygiene behavior of the chef. In condition 1, the chef engaged in poor hygiene practices while preparing the dish, in condition 2 the chef’s hygiene behavior was exemplary and in condition 3, the chef’s hygiene behavior was not visible (control condition). After watching the video, participants were instructed to cook the recipe individually in the fully equipped laboratory kitchen. Cooking sessions were videotaped and experimenters blind to condition coded hygiene lapses committed by participants.

The level of kitchen hygiene displayed in the cooking video significantly affected hygiene practices of participants cooking the recipe. Participants who had watched the cooking video with correct hygiene practices committed significantly fewer hygiene lapses than those who had watched the video with poor hygiene practices. From a risk communication perspective, TV cooking shows are well placed to convey knowledge of essential hygiene practices during food preparation to a broad audience. To facilitate behavioral change toward safer food‐handling practices among viewers, visibly performing correct hygiene practices in cooking shows is a promising strategy.

Kitchen hygiene in the spotlight: How cooking shows influence viewers’ hygiene practices

Risk Analysis

Severine Koch, Mark Lohmann, Jasmin Geppert, Rainer Stamminger, Astrid Epp, Gaby‐Fleur Böl

https://doi.org/10.1111/risa.13584

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/risa.13584

164 sickened in Aug. Norovirus found in mass food poisoning at Taiwan’s Chiaohsi hotel

The Yilan County Public Health Bureau said Aug. 12 that several customers and employees in the mass food poisoning case at Hotel Royal Chiaohsi (礁溪老爺酒店) had tested positive for norovirus, though it has not been confirmed as the official cause.

Earlier this month, news broke out that 164 people who dined at the Hotel Royal Chiaohsi’s buffet restaurant had experienced symptoms of food poisoning, including a group of Chailease Finance Co. employees that were on a company retreat. Of all the afflicted individuals, 92 have sought medical assistance, according to the health bureau.

The bureau said that a few customers and hotel staff members, including two restaurant workers, have received a positive result for the norovirus test, but no traces of the virus have been found on any of the kitchenware so far. Since the investigation results will determine the hotel’s responsibility and its follow-up settlement, the bureau said more clarification is needed on the true cause of the incident.

Preharvest treatment improves tomato food safety

Technology Networks reports that when vegetable farmers harvest crops, they often rely on postharvest washing to reduce any foodborne pathogens, but a new University of Georgia study shows promise in reducing these pathogens — as well as lowering labor costs — by applying sanitizers to produce while it is still in the fields.
Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes are major causes of foodborne diseases and of public health concern in the U.S. Tomato-associated salmonella outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have increased in frequency and magnitude in recent years, and fresh produce accounted for 21% of E. coli outbreaks reported to the CDC over a 20-year span.

Initially researchers were going to study the use of a nonchlorine-based sanitizer made of two food additives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — levulinic acid and sodium dodecyl sulfate — as a postharvest wash solution. However, at the suggestion of a producer involved in the study — Bill Brim of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia — they designed the study using the solution in a preharvest spray, said Tong Zhao, associate research scientist with the Center for Food Safety on the UGA Griffin campus.

While producers commonly use chlorine-based disinfectants — including chlorine gas, sodium hypochlorite, calcium hypochlorite and chlorine dioxide — to treat produce postharvest, the preharvest application of bactericides is not a common practice, Zhao said.

Building on previous studies of levulinic acid and sodium dodecyl sulfate that showed the combination substantially reduces both salmonella and E. coli on romaine lettuce without adversely affecting lettuce quality, Zhao hoped to prove the combination’s effectiveness on reducing foodborne pathogens on tomato plants contaminated with salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes.

In the field studies, the spray treatment significantly reduced the total bacterial population on the surface of tomatoes, determining that this preharvest treatment is a practical, labor-cost effective and environmentally friendly approach for the control and reduction of foodborne pathogens. The study was recently published in the journal Food Control.

“This combination of chemicals had never been used for preharvest treatment,” said Zhao, who studied the combination 10 years ago as an alternative to chlorine treatment as a postharvest wash. “Free chlorine is easily neutralized by organic

151 sickened: Norovirus outbreak causing gastroenteritis in a hotel in Menorca, Spain

To establish the agent responsible for a gastroenteritis outbreak in a hotel in Menorca (Spain) in September 2016.

Methods

The study included epidemiological and laboratory analysis. Environmental and stool samples were examined for bacterial and viral pathogens.

Results

One hundred and fifty-one cases were detected, 123 among the tourists staying in the hotel and 28 affecting the staff. The presence of genotype 2 norovirus was discovered in the microbiological studies of patient’s faeces, as well as in the surface samples of rooms and common areas. The control plan implemented allowed for control of the outbreak.

Conclusions

This study on a genotype 2 norovirus outbreak reveals the importance of a rapid response for controlling these types of outbreaks.

Norovirus outbreak causing gastroenteritis in a hotel in Menorca, Spain

Enfermedades infecciosas y microbiologia clinica

Antonio Doménech-SánchezabElena LasoaEncarnación GenestaraClara I.Berrocala

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eimce.2020.11.001

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2529993X20302008

Organic basil recalled again for Cyclospora

Amy Sowder of The Packer reports that Shenandoah Growers of Harrisonburg, Va., has recalled about 15,000 units of organic basil in select packages, due to a possible health risk from cyclospora. 

The recall is limited and voluntary, according to a Food and Drug Administration news release.

These items were packed under branded and private label fresh-cut, USDA-certified organic basil clamshells at its Jefferson, Ga., facility and Harrisonburg facilities with 19 lot codes, all with the country of origin of Colombia. 

Recalled products were distributed to retail stores between Oct. 20-30 in states including Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C.

No other Shenandoah Growers products are subject to recall, and the company has no knowledge of any illness reported or related to this product, according to the release.

The Shenandoah Growers recall includes only those clamshells of certified-organic basil clearly marked with the affected lot codes. The lot code can be found printed on each clamshell.

This recall stems from a package pulled by the Florida Department of Agriculture on Nov. 2, from a retail store in Florida that indicated the potential presence of cyclospora.

What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding? CDC could further strengthen efforts to identify and respond to foodborne illnesses

The U.S. Government Accountability Office writes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 people in the U.S. get food poisoning each year—leading to 128,000 hospital stays and 3,000 deaths. CDC has seen an increase in foodborne illness outbreaks that span multiple states in recent years.

CDC has developed tools to identify possible multistate outbreaks, investigate their cause, and communicate about them to the public. But it needs to balance the need to communicate quickly against the need to provide accurate and specific information.

Our recommendations include that CDC publicize its decision-making process for communicating about multistate outbreaks.

The continuing prevalence of shiga-toxin producing E. coli in produce

Chris Koger of The Packer writes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added 16 more people to an E. coli outbreak investigation of unknown origin, bringing the total to 39. Cases have been reported in 18 states; there have been no deaths.

According to the CDC’s Nov. 23 update, “Of the 22 ill people interviewed to date, all reported eating a variety of leafy greens, like spinach (16), romaine lettuce (15), iceberg lettuce (12), and mixed bag lettuce (8). No single type or brand of leafy greens or other food item has been identified as the source of this outbreak. CDC is not advising people avoid any particular food at this time.

Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. is voluntarily recalling a limited number of cases of organic romaine hearts. The products being recalled are Dole™ Organic Romaine Hearts 3pk (UPC 0-71430-90061-1), combined English/French packaging, with Harvested-On dates of 10-23-20 and 10-26-20, and Wild Harvest Organic Romaine Hearts (UPC 7-11535-50201-2), with Harvested-On dates of 10-23-20 and 10-26-20.  The recall is being conducted due to a possible health risk from E. coli in the two products.  Dole Fresh Vegetables is coordinating closely with regulatory officials. No illnesses have been reported to date in association with the recall. 

Pathogenic E. coli can cause diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.  Most people recover within a week, but some illnesses can last longer and can be more severe.

This precautionary recall notification is being issued due to an isolated instance in which a package of Dole™ Organic Romaine Hearts – 3pk yielded a positive result for pathogenic non-O157 E.coli STEC in a routine sample collected at a retail store by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. There is no indication at this time that this positive result is related to any illnesses nor consumer complaints and it is not associated with the strains connected to the ongoing outbreaks currently under regulatory investigation. 

NASA Apollo program helped boost US food safety

For those in need of a history lesson, a brief on the development of HACCP.

NASA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system created decades ago for the lunar landing initiative is credited to this day with reducing foodborne illnesses.

Originally developed for astronaut food in the early days of the Apollo program – because no one wanted diarrhea in a space suit or barf in a space helmet — the HACCP system has been adopted by major players in the food industry

Sixty years ago, at what is now Johnson Space Center in Houston, a nutritionist and a Pillsbury microbiologist partnered with NASA to provide uncontaminated food for the astronauts on the Gemini and Apollo missions.

Instead of testing end products, Paul Lachance and Howard Bauman came up with a method that identified and controlled potential points of failure in the food production process.

To make astronaut food safe, the duo introduced hazards in the production line, observed the hazard and determined how it could be prevented.

In 1971, the deaths of two people from botulism, a severe foodborne illness caused by bacteria, prompted the National Canners Association to adopt stricter standards. The Food and Drug Administration and the canners association implemented the HACCP regulations for low-acid canned food.

In 1993, an outbreak of food poisoning at a fast-food chain prompted meat and poultry manufacturers to adopt to the HACCP regulations as part of an effort to restore public confidence in the industry. A decade after that, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture made HACCP regulations universal for meat, poultry, seafood and juice producers.

Standardization was further strengthened in 2011 when the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act came into existence. While HACCP applies to all U.S. food producers, all applications are unique to particular foodstuffs.