As a comedian in all seriousness: What happens when B. cereus invades human cells

Tegan Taylor of ABC asks, what’s happening inside your body when you have food poisoning?

Research published today has given us a slightly clearer idea, at least for one type of bacteria.

A team from the Australian National University looked at the way the body responds to the bacteria Bacillus cereus, which can cause food poisoning and sometimes lead to serious infections elsewhere in the body, including sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis.

They found a toxin secreted by the bacteria binds directly to cells in the human body and punches holes in the cells to kill them, triggering an immune response.

Understanding the way toxins produced by this bacteria provoke inflammation in the body is a key to understanding how to treat it, said lead researcher Anukriti Mathur.

“Our immune system acts as a double-edged sword in these kinds of cases,” Ms Mathur said.

“In certain cases where you’ve got a bacterial infection it would be really essential to boost our immune system so that it is stronger.

“However in cases such as sepsis, where you’ve got unwanted inflammation happening in your body, you want to dampen the inflammatory responses.

“A very unique balance is required in protecting us against different kinds of infections.”

But what is it about this bacteria punching holes in your cells that leaves you hunched over a toilet bowl?

It has to do with the parts of your nervous system being targeted by the toxins produced by the bacteria, according to Vincent Ho, a University of Western Sydney gastroenterologist and researcher who was not involved in the study.

Bacillus cereus produces more than 12 different toxins. One triggers vomiting and another diarrhea, Dr Ho explained.

The vomit-inducing toxin, called cereulide, binds to serotonin receptors in the stomach and small bowel and stimulates the vagus nerve, which controls muscle movement in the gut.

“That signals back up to the vomiting centres of the brain,” he said.

“And in a very similar way that is how the diarrheal form also works too. It’s causing direct stimulation of the small bowel, and that’s triggering a reactive response of reflex mechanism called the gastro-colic reflex.

“The toxins are stimulating against receptors in the gut lining … triggering a lot more movement of the muscle in the gut and the colon.”

Bacillus cereus can be found in vegetables, rice and pasta, as well as meat and fish, and will grow in these foods if they are stored at the wrong temperature.

UK father paralysed after food poisoning issues safety warning to others

ITV news reports a father who became paralysed after contracting a rare illness from food poisoning has issued a warning to others about food safety.

Dai Braham, 40, was left paralysed from the nose down after becoming unwell while watching his six-year-old son play rugby in April.

Within a matter of days, he was in an induced coma.

Father-of-two Dai was a keen bodybuilder and fitness fanatic

It was only later that medical staff discovered the fitness fanatic from Bridgend had been suffering from food poisoning campylobacter – which led to the rare autoimmune disorder Guillian-Barré Syndrome.

At his worst point, he found himself unable to breathe without a ventilator and without a voice.

“It’s the scariest thing in the world. You are basically locked in your own body”, Dai said.

“Your mind is fine and you know what you want your body to do but you just can’t do it.

“It was horrible, I couldn’t communicate with anyone. I could blink to say yes or no or use a letter card. Then I would use words on a board to spell out certain words.”

Dai has spent the last eight months in hospital and has only recently learned to walk again.

What is Guillain-Barré syndrome?

It is thought to be caused by a problem with the immune system, and can be triggered by infections including food poisoning and the flu as well as by vaccinations, surgery or injury.

Symptoms of the condition include numbness, pins and needles, muscle weakness, and problems with balance and co-ordination.

337 sick: Academics to dine with students after food poisoning at Van university in Turkey’s east

Hurriyet Daily News writes the senate of Van Yüzüncü Yıl University in the eastern province of Van has decided that one academic will dine with students every day after dozens of students living in a dormitory suffered from food poisoning last week.

On Nov. 29, a total of 337 students were hospitalized following complaints such as nausea and high fever. A special commission was established to investigate the suspected poisoning and officials from the local health and provincial directorate of agriculture collected samples from the food and the water students consumed.

While the investigation is still ongoing the university’s governing body decided that each day one academic staff should eat together with the students.

“Academics and students will share the same meal and the table to ease concerns and possible provocations. We have to stand by our students when they have concerns,” Peyami Battal, the rector, said. Battal was the first academic to dine with the students following the senate’s decision.

‘I don’t know how to face my friends and relatives’ Dozens ill after wedding banquet in Singapore

Jeffrey Sivalingam, 61, the father of the bride, told The New Paper yesterday an eight-course meal had been catered for more than 400 guests.

After contacting them yesterday, the retiree said many of them had told him about falling ill after the banquet.

“About four people from each table fell ill as well as some entire tables,” he said.

“I didn’t expect this and now I don’t know how to face my friends and relatives.”

Mr Sivalingam said he was warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital with his son after they developed fever, and that at least three youngsters, including his 16-year-old niece, were also warded.

A wedding guest, Mr Matthew Tjow, 40, said he and his three children started vomiting and having diarrhoea on Monday.

The counsellor added: “My daughter, who is in Primary 1, vomited from the hall to the toilet. She has kept vomiting and is looking as frail as a rag doll.”

He said the other two, aged 12 and 10, also vomited and had diarrhoea and fever. His wife also started showing symptoms last night.

The spokesman said staff who handled food during the banquet events have been “temporarily relieved of duties” until they complete all necessary medical tests and are cleared by the relevant authorities.

The hotel will also cease serving raw food from its banquet kitchens during the investigation.

Mr Sivalingam hopes to warn the public about such incidents.

“I am not interested in compensation from the hotel. I am interested in the well-being of our guests,” he said.

Wild boars and zoonoses

Maria Fredriksson-Ahomaa writes in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease that wild boar populations around the world have increased dramatically over past decades. Climate change, generating milder winters with less snow, may affect their spread into northern regions. Wild boars can serve as reservoirs for a number of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, which are transmissible to humans and domestic animals through direct interaction with wild boars, through contaminated food or indirectly through contaminated environment. Disease transmission between wild boars, domestic animals, and humans is an increasing threat to human and animal health, especially in areas with high wild boar densities.

This article reviews important foodborne zoonoses, including bacterial diseases (brucellosis, salmonellosis, tuberculosis, and yersiniosis), parasitic diseases (toxoplasmosis and trichinellosis), and the viral hepatitis E. The focus is on the prevalence of these diseases and the causative microbes in wild boars. The role of wild boars in transmitting these pathogens to humans and livestock is also briefly discussed.

Golden Ponds: Lawsuits proceed 2 years after 306 sickened in Rochester’s worst food poisoning outbreak

On Thanksgiving Day in 2016, as many as 1,100 people ate their holiday dinner at Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House, which was located just up Long Pond Road from the Greece Town Hall in Rochester, N.Y.

Within 24 hours, patrons began to experience stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea. Some were hospitalized and at least one underwent emergency surgery.

Eventually, 306 people who dined at Golden Ponds that day reported they had been sickened by the food, officials at the Monroe County Department of Public Health now say.

A public-health investigation later determined that the pernicious Clostridium perfringens bacteria that made people ill was in gravy that had been stored and served at an unacceptably low temperature.

“Rest assured there are a significant number of people who will never think of Thanksgiving the same way,” said Paul Vincent Nunes, a Rochester lawyer who has brought lawsuits against the defunct Greece restaurant. 

According to Steve Orr of the Democrat and Chronicle, here’s what’s happened since:

Golden Ponds is closed. The establishment at 500 Long Pond Road, which had been operated by Ralph Rinaudo for 33 years, was closed by the health department after the food poisoning episode. Improvements were made and the restaurant was allowed to open in late December. But business was predictably slow, and it closed for good in February 2017.

Rinaudo sold the property in January of this year to a corporation that shares the address of a Henrietta construction firm, Team FSI General Contractors. The building appears to be empty at present and future use of the property isn’t clear. Officials at FSI did not respond to a request for comment.

The health department has continued its practice of inspecting every restaurant once a year. It has not stepped up inspections of buffet-style eateries like Golden Ponds, spokesman Ryan Horey said. Inability to maintain food at the proper temperatures during buffet serving was key  factor in the Golden Ponds incident. The Democrat and Chronicle checked inspection records available on nydatabases.com for six Rochester-area buffet restaurants. Five of them have been cited by the health departments for serious violations involving foods being kept at the wrong temperature since the Golden Ponds episode.

Four lawsuits filed on behalf of 31 plaintiffs are pending against Golden Ponds. The four were consolidated into one case in July. Court-ordered mediation to seek a resolution before trial is set to begin soon. The cases are not suited for class-action status, as the damages incurred differed from one patron to the next, Nunes said.

Nunes said, “These were not just tummy aches. People were quite sick, some in the hospital. These are life-threatening events.”

English pub slapped with zero rating after 60 people got food poisoning turned around to get five stars

Heather Pickstock of Bristol Live reports the Old Farmhouse in Nailsea is now under new management and has been issued with a five start rating for its food hygiene.

A pub where dozens of diners suffered food poisoning after eating there on Mothering Sunday has been issued with a five star

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food hygiene rating.

More than 60 people fell ill, suffering from sickness and diarrhoea in March this year after eating at the Old Farmhouse in Nailsea.

The kitchens at the pub, off Trendlewood Way, were temporarily closed while officials from Public Health England and North Somerset Council launched an investigation into the cause. It was given a zero food hygiene rating after an inspection.

Putting food-safety detection in the hands of consumers

I always thought the MIT Media Lab would be the coolest place to work.

I have no idea whether this gadget will work, but it has coolnest factor.

MIT Media Lab researchers have developed a wireless system that leverages the cheap RFID tags already on hundreds of billions of products to sense potential food contamination—with no hardware modifications needed. With the simple, scalable system, the researchers hope to bring food-safety detection to the general public.

Food safety incidents have made headlines around the globe for causing illness and death nearly every year for the past two decades. Back in 2008, for instance, 50,000 babies in China were hospitalized after eating infant formula adulterated with melamine, an organic compound used to make plastics, which is toxic in high concentrations. And this April, more than 100 people in Indonesia died from drinking alcohol contaminated, in part, with methanol, a toxic alcohol commonly used to dilute liquor for sale in black markets around the world.

The researchers’ system, called RFIQ, includes a reader that senses minute changes in wireless signals emitted from RFID tags when the signals interact with food. For this study they focused on baby formula and alcohol, but in the future, consumers might have their own reader and software to conduct food-safety sensing before buying virtually any product. Systems could also be implemented in supermarket back rooms or in smart fridges to continuously ping an RFID tag to automatically detect food spoilage, the researchers say.

The technology hinges on the fact that certain changes in the signals emitted from an RFID tag correspond to levels of certain contaminants within that product. A machine-learning model “learns” those correlations and, given a new material, can predict if the material is pure or tainted, and at what concentration. In experiments, the system detected baby formula laced with melamine with 96 percent accuracy, and alcohol diluted with methanol with 97 percent accuracy.

“In recent years, there have been so many hazards related to food and drinks we could have avoided if we all had tools to sense food quality and safety ourselves,” says Fadel Adib, an assistant professor at the Media Lab who is co-author on a paper describing the system, which is being presented at the ACM Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks. “We want to democratize food quality and safety, and bring it to the hands of everyone.”

The paper’s co-authors include: postdoc and first author Unsoo Ha, postdoc Yunfei Ma, visiting researcher Zexuan Zhong, and electrical engineering and computer science graduate student Tzu-Ming Hsu.

Other sensors have also been developed for detecting chemicals or spoilage in food. But those are highly specialized systems, where the sensor is coated with chemicals and trained to detect specific contaminations. The Media Lab researchers instead aim for broader sensing. “We’ve moved this detection purely to the computation side, where you’re going to use the same very cheap sensor for products as varied as alcohol and baby formula,” Adib says.

RFID tags are stickers with tiny, ultra-high-frequency antennas. They come on food products and other items, and each costs around three to five cents. Traditionally, a wireless device called a reader pings the tag, which powers up and emits a unique signal containing information about the product it’s stuck to.

The researchers’ system leverages the fact that, when RFID tags power up, the small electromagnetic waves they emit travel into and are distorted by the molecules and ions of the contents in the container. This process is known as “weak coupling.” Essentially, if the material’s property changes, so do the signal properties.

A simple example of feature distortion is with a container of air versus water. If a container is empty, the RFID will always respond at around 950 megahertz. If it’s filled with water, the water absorbs some of the frequency, and its main response is around only 720 megahertz. Feature distortions get far more fine-grained with different materials and different contaminants. “That kind of information can be used to classify materials … [and] show different characteristics between impure and pure materials,” Ha says.

In the researchers’ system, a reader emits a wireless signal that powers the RFID tag on a food container. Electromagnetic waves penetrate the material inside the container and return to the reader with distorted amplitude (strength of signal) and phase (angle).

When the reader extracts the signal features, it sends those data to a machine-learning model on a separate computer. In training, the researchers tell the model which feature changes correspond to pure or impure materials. For this study, they used pure alcohol and alcohol tainted with 25, 50, 75, and 100 percent methanol; baby formula was adulterated with a varied percentage of melamine, from 0 to 30 percent.

“Then, the model will automatically learn which frequencies are most impacted by this type of impurity at this level of percentage,” Adib says. “Once we get a new sample, say, 20 percent methanol, the model extracts [the features] and weights them, and tells you, ‘I think with high accuracy that this is alcohol with 20 percent methanol.’”

The system’s concept derives from a technique called radio frequency spectroscopy, which excites a material with electromagnetic waves over a wide frequency and measures the various interactions to determine the material’s makeup.

But there was one major challenge in adapting this technique for the system: RFID tags only power up at a very tight bandwidth wavering around 950 megahertz. Extracting signals in that limited bandwidth wouldn’t net any useful information.

The researchers built on a sensing technique they developed earlier, called two-frequency excitation, which sends two frequencies—one for activation, and one for sensing—to measure hundreds more frequencies. The reader sends a signal at around 950 megahertz to power the RFID tag. When it activates, the reader sends another frequency that sweeps a range of frequencies from around 400 to 800 megahertz. It detects the feature changes across all these frequencies and feeds them to the reader.

“Given this response, it’s almost as if we have transformed cheap RFIDs into tiny radio frequency spectroscopes,” Adib says.

Because the shape of the container and other environmental aspects can affect the signal, the researchers are currently working on ensuring the system can account for those variables. They are also seeking to expand the system’s capabilities to detect many different contaminants in many different materials.

“We want to generalize to any environment,” Adib says. “That requires us to be very robust, because you want to learn to extract the right signals and to eliminate the impact of the environment from what’s inside the material.”

sick: Donated catered meal cause of a foodborne outbreak of Staphylococcus aureus at a hospital in Houston after Hurricane Harveyd

Lucila Marquez of Healio reports that 50 staff members — but no patients — suffered acute gastrointestinal symptoms after eating a meal that included pork sausage, pulled pork, brisket, chicken and yogurt, at Texas Children’s Hospital, and colleagues.

Experts warned that flooding caused by Harvey could put storm victims at a higher risk for infection, but Marquez and colleagues said exposure to flood water was not associated with illness in the patients involved in the outbreak. They noted that S. aureus is one of 31 known causes of foodborne illness and outbreaks.

According to their report, on Sept. 1, 2017, a catered meal was donated and served to staff of the unnamed hospital. After infection control staff were notified of several cases of gastrointestinal illness among staff who ate the meal, the Harris County Department of Health was notified about the suspected outbreak, leftover food was secured and samples were taken from the pork sausage, pulled pork, brisket and chicken for testing.

Staff at hospital in Houston were sickened in an outbreak of Staphylococcus aureus linked to a donated catered meal.

Of the 191 staff who were working when the catered meal was delivered, 48% (n = 92) reported eating some of the meal, according to Marquez and colleagues. Within 14 hours, 54% (n = 50) of those who consumed the meal reported acute onset of gastrointestinal symptoms. All recovered within 24 hours.

Leftovers were tested for S. aureus, shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli, and Bacillus cereus —pathogens with a short incubation period, Marquez and colleagues noted. Brisket and chicken tested negative for any pathogen, but portions of pulled pork and pork sausage tested positive for S. aureus. Based on a questionnaire completed by staff members, Marquez and colleagues calculated a 1.47 relative risk for illness from eating pork sausage (95% CI, 1.06-2.04) and a 1.45 relative risk for illness from eating yogurt (95% CI, 1.05-2.01), although no yogurt samples were available for testing.

They said the disruption in public health services in the wake of the storm prevented the health department from immediately investigating the catering business that delivered the meal.

Singapore: 1 dead, 72 sick from Spize restaurant

The Sats officer who fell sick after consuming food from popular restaurant Spize has died on Wednesday (Nov 14).

Mr Fadli Salleh, who was married with two young children, had been in critical condition in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) after he was one of 72 people who suffered gastroenteritis, allegedly after eating bento boxes prepared by Spize’s River Valley outlet for an event last Tuesday. (the raw egg looks like a Salmonella factory).

 

The party was for a Deepavali celebration organised by security company Brink’s Singapore and held on its premises at Kaki Bukit.

Mr Fadli attended the gathering as he was deployed to Brink’s Singapore, though the event itself did not involve Sats.

A Sats spokesman said: “We are providing support to the family during this sad and difficult time. Please approach Brinks if you have further questions.”

 

Brinks offered its condolences to Mr Fadli’s family and said it it was “deeply saddened” that an employee of its business partner died.

 

A joint statement by the National Environment Agency (NEA), MOH and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority last Friday said the authorities were notified of the cases last Wednesday and they conducted a joint investigation that day.

Spize’s 409 River Valley Road branch’s licence was suspended at 7pm that evening.

 

The statement added that they were investigating several cases of gastroenteritis traced to the consumption of food prepared at the restaurant.

 

“Several hygiene lapses were observed, including leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, not providing soap for hand washing (soap dispenser was faulty) and slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in the gap between the food preparation tables,” said the statement.

Spize had supplied 88 bento sets to Brink’s Singapore and Spize’s co-owner Mr Haresh Sabnani had told The Straits Times on Wednesday before news of Mr Fadli’s death was confirmed that “on that day, 221 bento sets were sent to six different locations, but only that one location was affected”.