Your browser does not support JavaScript! December 2017 ⋆ The BioExpert

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Lettuce E. coli Outbreak May be Spreading to the US from Canada

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The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says preliminary test results from an E. coli outbreak in the U.S. shows a common source of infection with an outbreak in Canada that was linked to romaine lettuce.
The CDC is investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli o157:H7 infections (STEC O157:H7) in 13 states. Seventeen illnesses have been reported from California (3), Connecticut (2), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Michigan (1), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (2), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (1), Virginia (1), Vermont (1) and Washington (1). Illnesses started on dates from November 15 through December 8, 2017.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has established romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak and advised consumers in affected areas to avoid romaine lettuce. However, the current CDC’s notice of Dec. 28 said a definite source had not been found, and it is “unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food.”
In Canada, there are currently 41 cases of E. coli O157 illness under investigation in five eastern provinces: Ontario (8), Quebec (14), New Brunswick (5), Nova Scotia (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (13). Individuals became sick in November and early December 2017. Seventeen individuals have been hospitalized. One individual has died. Individuals who became ill are between the ages of 3 and 85 years of age. The majority of cases (73%) are female.
Canadian retailer Sobeys, which has about 1,500 stores under numerous names, announced Dec. 22 it had pulled all romaine products from shelves as a cautionary measure. Media reports said the retailer pulled more than 300 romaine products.
The CDC is performing whole genome sequencing on samples of bacteria making people sick, from the U.S. cases to obtain information about the possible relationship between the US cases and the Canadian outbreak. The preliminary testing results “show the type of E. coli making people sick in both countries is closely related genetically, meaning the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection.”
Illness onset dates in the U.S. range from Nov. 15 to Dec. 8. In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada reports illnesses started in November and ended in early December. The Canadian agency added one more case on Dec. 28, bringing the total to 41 illnesses from five eastern provinces. One person has died as a result of the E. coli outbreak, according to the agency.
In the U.S., state and local health officials are interviewing sick people to document what they consumed before the outbreak began. That process is ongoing, and interviews focus on all foods, not just romaine and other leafy greens, according to the CDC.
State and local authorities are interviewing sick people to see what they ate in the week before they became ill. Because a source of the US infections hasn’t been identified, the CDC said it is unable to recommend if US residents should avoid a particular food. “This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available,” the CDC press release said.
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Listeria Recalls in the News: due to Raw Apples and Smoked Salmon Fish

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Raw Apples Recall

The FDA announced that Jack Brown Produce, Inc. of Sparta, MI had recalled Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious apples due to the potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The contaminated apples were processed and shipped by their supplier Nyblad Orchards, Inc., on December 11 through December 16, 2017.
The apples were distributed to retail stores in Michigan, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and include the following varieties:
  1. Honeycrisp apples in two-pound clear plastic bags;
  2. Gala, Fuji, and Golden Delicious apples in 3-pound clear plastic bags;
  3. Fuji and Gala apples in 5-pound red-netted mesh bags; and
  4. Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp apples that were tray-packed/individually sold.
The apples were sold under the “Apple Ridge” name. Originally only whole fresh apples are implicated in this recall.   However, on December 22, 2017, the FDA announced the recall of red/green apple slices. The recalled apples slices were distributed in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin in retail stores and through distributors. The contamination was noted in a single sample that was taken from related gala apple products.
Recalled Apples were sold at ALDI stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky starting Dec. 13.
Kroger supermarket chain recalled lunchbox-size Fuji and Galas sold between Dec. 12 and Tuesday. In addition individual pieces of fruit, the recall includes Michigan-grown apples sold in 5-pound bags. The products were sold in Kroger stores in various cities in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
As a result of the Fresh-Pak Inc. recall, Meijer recalled Meijer brand packaged products due to sliced apples within the products being potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
Routine sampling at Nyblad Orchards, Inc. facility showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in some of the apples. The distribution of these apples was stopped. The company said that no illnesses were reported to date.  
In the past several years there have been a number of recalls associated with raw apples and caramel apples.  There have been a few studies that investigated the potential source of Listeria monocytogenes in raw apples. Salazar et al. (Fate of Listeria monocytogenes in Fresh Apples and Caramel Apples. Salazar JKCarstens CKBathija VMNarula SSParish MTortorello ML) showed that fresh apples inoculated with Listeria monocytogenes at the steam were able to survive and grow, and apple variety did not significantly impact the results.

Smoked Salmon Fish

Initially, the FDA announced the recall of Springfield Smoked Fish of Springfield, of Massachusetts Pre-sliced Nova Salmon, distributed in Rhode Island and Connecticut through retail stores, after finding Listeria monocytogenes in the product.
The initial recall was limited to 1lb pre-sliced Nova Salmon produced on 11/24/17. No illnesses were reported to date.
The recall was expanded and currently includes product produced between May 22, 2017, and December 12, 2017. On December 12, 2017, the facility stopped production.
Most of the recalled products were sold under the Springfield Smoked Fish or Rachael’s Springfield Smoked Fish brand names. The products were distributed and sold at retail stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania from May 2017 through December 2017. The product was also sold nationwide through online sales. 
The recalled products include Smoked Salmon – All Species, Whitefish Meat, Belly Lox, Smoked Bluefish, Smoked Sable, Kippered Salmon, Cream Cheese Spreads, and Smoked Whitefish Spread, among others. Also recalled is Boston Salads – Private Label Scallion and Veggie Cream Cheese Spreads.
The expansion is due to environmental and product testing conducted by Springfield Smoked Fish No illnesses have been reported to date. Production of the smoked salmon has been suspended during the FDA investigation of the source of the contamination.
Each year around 1,600 people eat products contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, about 260 dies (16%). Symptoms often surface one to four weeks after contamination but could take as long as 70 days.
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Lactalis Baby Formula recalled due to Salmonella agona contamination

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Lactalis, a French dairy company, is one of the world’s largest dairy producers was ordered to recall 7,000 tons of powdered milk products due to the contamination with Salmonella agona (French Health authorities).   Twenty-six infants have become ill in France since early December. Initially, 20 children, younger than 6, became ill. This caused an initially limited recall that was expanded as more children got sick. This week 5 new cases of Salmonellosis were reported.
The recalled products were sold in Europe (France and Britain, Greece), in Africa (Morocco and Sudan), in South America (Peru and Colombia), and in Asia (Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China).The affected brands include Picot, Milumel, and Celia. None of the recalled products was sold in the USA. Lactalis believe that the outbreak of Salmonella can be traced back to its facility in Craon in northwest France and to a drying tower used to create the dry milk powder. All products produced at this facility since mid-February might be contaminated. The company had put into place new disinfection procedures together with new cleaning regiment.
The France health authority reported that all the children impacted by the recall are doing well.
Lactalis is a French privately healed company with its headquarters in Laval, in Western France. It has around 75,000 employees in 85 countries
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A New Technology Can be Used Instead of Antibiotics to Kill Superbugs

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  Dr. Timothy Lu, an associate professor in biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found a new potential way to kill superbugs with a DNA editor called CRISPR-Cas9. The Wall Street Journal reported that Dr. Lu said: “is is basically a molecular scissor” that can snip bacterial genes that make bacteria drug-resistant, killing the bug in the process.  The technology combines bacteriophages and CRISPR-Cas9 to target drug-resistant genes.

What is CRISPR?

CRISPR is used to edit or delete genes from living cells.  “CRISPR” means Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. They are the characteristic of a bacterial defense system that forms the basis for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology.
CRISPR-Cas9 can be programmed to target portions of genetic code and edit DNA at exact locations. It allows researchers to modify genes in living organisms permanently. This technology can be used to remove the genes that make the bacteria drug-resistant, and in the process, it can also kill the bacteria.

The New Technology to Eliminate Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Dr. Lu is studying ways to eliminate superbugs with CRISPR-Cas9. He is contemplating combining the CRISPR-Cas9 technology with bacteriophages, and engineering the bacteriophages to attack only bacteria with drug-resistant genes. They were successful in including the CRISPR-Cas9 into a bacteriophage that was designed to attack a drug-resistant E. coli (Nature Biotechnology, 2014 Sequence-specific antimicrobials using efficiently delivered RNA-guided nucleases,  R. J. Citorik, M. Mmee, and T. K. Lu). The new technology has the advantage of being a more targeted approach.
Numerous hurdles need to be overcome before this technology can be used against superbugs, including the demonstration that in humans, bacteriophages are safe and effective to use. Another concern is that the CRISPR can deviate from the target, thereby slicing the wrong genes. However, there is a race among scientists to find new applications for this novel technology.
One major concern is that CRISPER can veer off target, slicing away the wrong genes with potentially harmful effects, scientists say. There are also fears of unknown effects due to the use of CRISPER to modify bacteria. Regardless of the promise of this technology, any potential therapy is years away. Nevertheless, many other scientists are trying to harness this novel technology for a variety of applications.

Can a similar technology be used in food plants to eliminate pathogenic bacteria from the environment?

Bacteriophages have been recommended for rapid detection of food-borne pathogens as well as a natural food preservative (Front Microbiol. 2016; 7: 474). Phage cocktails were created for the treatment of foods contaminated with various pathogens (Campylobacter jejuni, Cronobacter sakazakii, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus, and Vibrio spp). Numerous other studies report that phages may be useful for controlling specific food pathogen. However, there is no widespread use of bacteriophages to control pathogens.
Several of bacteriophage-based applications have been approved for pre-harvest control of food pathogens in livestock and poultry. Another application is the decontamination of surfaces in food-processing facilities (Neha Bhardwaj, Sanjeev K. Bhardwaj, Akash Deep, Swati Dahiya and Sanjay Kapoor, 2015. Lytic Bacteriophages as Biocontrol Agents of Foodborne Pathogens. Asian Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances, 10: 708-723.) 
Using the new advanced technology described above might improve the stability of the bacteriophages and improve their ability to attack the bacteria. As a result, it might gain more traction in the food industry.