NEWS SCAN: Food-contamination responses, resistant E coli in raw chicken, H5N1 in Vietnam, ancient brucellosis


State, local agencies receive FDA funds to test food-contamination responses
Eight state agencies and one local health agency will receive funds and guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration to use FDA scenarios designed to test responses to food-contamination events, the FDA announced yesterday. Scenarios in the Food Related Emergency Exercise Bundle, or "FREE-B," are designed to allow single or multiple agencies and organizations to test their responses to intentional or unintentional food contamination, the FDA said. Last September the agency invited state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies to apply for funding and guidance for trying out a FREE-B scenario. Recipients of the awards, worth up to $5,000 each, are the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Connecticut Department of Public Health, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, New York State Department of Health, Virginia Department of Health, and the Uncas Health District in Connecticut. The exercises are to be completed by June.
Jan 3 FDA statement

Study finds high incidence of drug-resistant E coli in chicken meat
Almost all chicken breast meat—whether organic or conventional—bought by Dutch researchers in the Netherlands was found to be contaminated with extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)–producing Escherichia coli, a drug-resistant type, according to a study yesterday in the International Journal of Food Microbiology. Investigators bought 98 raw chicken breasts from 12 stores in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in 2010: 60 conventional and 38 organic. They found ESBL-producing E coli on all the conventional samples and in 84% of the organic samples. However, the median E coli load was significantly higher (P = 0.001) in the conventional samples: 80 colony-forming units (CFU) per 25 grams (range, <20-1360) versus less than 20 (range, 0-260). They also found the strains to be similar among the two types of poultry meat. The authors write, "The relevance of the different load of ESBL positive E. coli in both types of meat for the probability of food borne transmission of ESBL genes to humans is unknown" but state that the minimum infectious doses have been reported to range from less than 10 to 100 CFU for enterohemorrhagic E coli and from 105 to 108 CFU for enterotoxigenic E coli .
Jan 3 Int J Food Microbiol abstract

Vietnam reports H5N1 outbreak in household chickens
H5N1 avian flu killed 10 chickens in a backyard flock in Vietnam's southern Hau Giang province and led to the culling of 440 more, according to a Voice of Vietnam (VOV) story today. The head of the province's department of animal health said that, after samples from the dead poultry tested positive for H5N1, the department culled the rest of the flock and quarantined and disinfected the affected areas. The official, Truong Ngoc Trung, said this is the time of year when avian flu outbreaks often occur.
Jan 4 VOV story

Evidence of brucellosis found in medieval bones from Albania
Scientists from Michigan State University (MSU) report they have found DNA evidence of Brucella bacteria in medieval human bones from Albania, indicating that human brucellosis has existed in that region at least since the Middle Ages. Holes in the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae of skeletons found in the ancient city of Butrint were clues to the disease's presence, according to the scientists' report in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The remains were those of two adolescent boys who lived sometime between the 10th and 13th centuries. Their lesions suggested tuberculosis (TB) or brucellosis, but genetic tests for TB were negative. In further tests, the scientists found two DNA markers for Brucella species, whereas tests of other remains with no signs of disease were negative for Brucella, the report states. Brucellosis had never been confirmed previously in human bones recovered from an archaeological site, according to an MSU press release. Brucellosis is a disease of both cattle and humans, and Brucella is listed as a class B bioterrorism agent. Although brucellosis is rare in the United States, it remains a major problem in the Mediterranean and other parts of the world, according to the release.
Dec 30 Am J Phys Anthropol abstract
Jan 3 MSU press release

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