Animals as sources of human pathogens in Ecuador

Animals are important reservoirs of zoonotic enteropathogens, and transmission to humans occurs more frequently in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where small-scale livestock production is common.

Zoonoses_Image_0-270x252In this study, we investigated the presence of zoonotic enteropathogens in stool samples from 64 asymptomatic children and 203 domestic animals of 62 households in a semirural community in Ecuador between June and August 2014.

Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) was used to assess zoonotic transmission of Campylobacter jejuni and atypical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (aEPEC), which were the most prevalent bacterial pathogens in children and domestic animals (30.7% and 10.5%, respectively). Four sequence types (STs) of C. jejuni and four STs of aEPEC were identical between children and domestic animals. The apparent sources of human infection were chickens, dogs, guinea pigs, and rabbits for C. jejuni and pigs, dogs, and chickens for aEPEC.

Other pathogens detected in children and domestic animals were Giardia lamblia (13.1%), Cryptosporidium parvum (1.1%), and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) (2.6%). Salmonella enterica was detected in 5 dogs and Yersinia enterocolitica was identified in 1 pig. Even though we identified 7 enteric pathogens in children, we encountered evidence of active transmission between domestic animals and humans only for C. jejuni and aEPEC. We also found evidence that C. jejuni strains from chickens were more likely to be transmitted to humans than those coming from other domestic animals. Our findings demonstrate the complex nature of enteropathogen transmission between domestic animals and humans and stress the need for further studies.


We found evidence that Campylobacter jejuni, Giardia, and aEPEC organisms were the most common zoonotic enteropathogens in children and domestic animals in a region close to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Genetic analysis of the isolates suggests transmission of some genotypes of C. jejuni and aEPEC from domestic animals to humans in this region. We also found that the genotypes associated with C. jejuni from chickens were present more often in children than were those from other domestic animals. The potential environmental factors associated with transmission of these pathogens to humans then are discussed.

Detection of zoonotic enteropathogens in children and domestic animals in a semirural community in Ecuador

Karla Vasco a, Jay P. Graham b and Gabriel Trueba a

A Microbiology Institute, Colegio de Ciencias Biologicas y Ambientales, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador

B Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Volume 82, Number 14, Pages 4218–4224, doi:10.1128/AEM.00795-16

Ecuador investigating cases of mass food poisoning in Santa Rosa

The Ministry of Health took samples to investigate the causes that led to a weekend a mass poisoning in Santa Rosa, in the province of El Oro. Meanwhile, of the 405 intoxicated, 10 remain hospitalized with abdominal pain, fever and dehydration.

Ecuador-food-streetvendorThe case was then submitted that these people ate chicken and tuna sandwiches during the holidays proclamation of Medina Estero community.

“I could not resist, I came here (hospital) and I put a drip, can not stand, can not resist the pain,” said Elicia Guerrero.

Bizarre foods or bizarre perceptions of risk?

Aisha P. Salazar, a graduate student at Kansas State University, writes:

I love traveling and eating just about anything in sight. My only rule is that food can’t be too spicy. That’s why ‘Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern’ is one of my favorite shows. I recently found an old episode where he was visiting Ecuador, my parent’s native country. I have been to Ecuador several times since birth, but I got to thinking Zimmern must either have an incredibly tolerant stomach and intestines, or he must spend a lot of time on the toilet and it’s never captured on camera. I say this because he eats the oddest foods all over the world, even at local stands along the road, with apparently no gastrointestinal effect.

The last time I visited Ecuador was about two years ago. I went to different towns and ate all the street food in sight—beef, pork, mote, rice, plantains. I actually drew the line at the cuy because they didn’t look fully cooked and were in the least sanitary locations of all the food, though I have eaten it in the past and it’s really good. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten everything because of the variable sanitation standards, but I ate…and I got sick. I got the worst case of food poisoning I had ever experienced (I’m talking both ends, doubled over in severe pain for two days, unable to stomach anything for an additional two or more days).

It seemed that Zimmern takes precautionary measures by not eating from local stands at all times, but even when I eat at friend’s houses or restaurants I can come up with a bad case of the runs. It made me wonder what he does to prepare himself to prevent a run-in with a toilet and what he would do if he were to get sick. I don’t see any of the cooks using thermometers and he often eats raw foods. So how does he do it and what is his perception of risk? I decided to e-mail him and ask. Hopefully he, or someone working with him, will get back to me. The show’s website states they will be devoting an hour long Halloween Special to the topic of culture and food. He’ll also have an online Q&A session on October 21st.

I often don’t heed the advice of my own field, eating everything from sushi to unpasteurized cheese to alfalfa sprouts. In fact, right before one spring break in college my professor had talked to us about the risk of eating raw oysters and acquiring food poisoning from Vibrio cholera. I, of course, went to New Orleans and ate raw oysters the moment I arrived. I survived unscathed yet, even after several incidents of food poisoning, I still take the risk.

But where does my own perception of risk associated with foods come from? How is it different from the next person’s? Is one influenced by old wise tales, cultural norms, or scientific facts, or even blessed with good genes? Or is it a matter of adjusting one’s intestines to certain pathogens? How tolerant is a native person to certain foods compared to a foreigner? Or does your vulnerability to foodborne illness relate to your perception of risk? (For vulnerabilities, see ‘Who is at risk?’  and ‘Food safety in pregnancy is not simple’ ). Doug Powell often talks about creating a culture of safe food; reducing the risk begins with changing behaviors and spreading knowledge. I recommend Zimmern include a warning statement in his shows, informing the public of dangers that can result from eating certain foods. It would benefit travelers and spread the culture of safe food.

This topic has been on my mind for a couple of years, and pretty much anytime I travel, yet I haven’t bothered researching it. Instead, I go on blindly eating the foods I love and hope I don’t die from them. This doesn’t mean I’m not careful when I or anybody in my family cooks, but I’ve noticed my own risks seem to be greater when I’m eating outside my own home. My friends can tell you how ironic it is that I’m studying food safety yet I always get food poisoning. I found it ironic that Zimmern is the international spokesman for Pepto-Bismol. If only Pepto and Mylanta knew how much I relied on them. Then again, I’m not sure I’d like to be the face of Mylanta. I’m probably better off changing my own food rules and reducing my chances of getting sick.

We all pick our own poisons.