News Scan for Jul 30, 2019

Leafy greens and Listeria
FDA OKs Lyme tests
Prion disease in more camels

Consumer Reports probe finds Listeria on leafy greens in several stores

Leafy greens from several grocery store chains tested positive for Listeria bacteria, in an experiment conducted by Consumer Reports that's kicked off an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Scientists with the organization tested 234 samples of fresh greens, and 6 of them tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. The six samples included two bagged, pre-washed greens (both containing spinach), and four loose heads or bunches of green kale, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and spinach. The samples came from Acme, Costco, Hannaford, and Whole Foods, and all were bought from Jun 3 to 19 in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.

"While it may not be surprising to find Listeria in a small percentage of leafy green products that are tested, it is always concerning to find bacteria that can make people sick in foods that aren’t meant to be cooked," says Karen Wong, MD, medical officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch.

One strain seen in the sample collected from a "triple-washed" Nature's Place Organic Spinach Spring Mix was genetically linked to at least two listeriosis cases reported to the CDC.

"In response to CR's findings, the FDA initiated an inspection of the plant that produced Nature's Place Organic Spinach Spring Mix, the product that contained a strain of Listeria linked to two illnesses," Consumer Reports said.

The Consumer Reports study is not meant to result in any definitive food safety conclusions about supermarket produce, the authors said. But it does suggest that people susceptible to complications from Listeria, including pregnant women and the elderly, cook their greens before eating them.

"Unless there's an ongoing, known outbreak, for most people the nutritional benefits [of eating leafy greens] outweigh the potential contamination risks," said James. E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.
Jul 26 Consumer Reports story


FDA clears for marketing 4 new tests for Lyme diagnosis

Four previously cleared tests that can detect Lyme diseases are now cleared for market use, the FDA announced yesterday.

"Lyme disease can have a devastating impact on patients," said Tim Stenzel, MD, PhD, director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "With today's action, clinicians have a new option to test for Lyme that is easier to interpret by a clinical laboratory due to the streamlined method of conducting the test. These tests may improve confidence in diagnosing a patient for a condition that requires the earliest possible treatment to ensure the best outcome for patients."

Traditional Lyme assays require a two-step process to detect the presence of antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The standard tests require both enzyme immunoassays (EIA) and Western blots results to confirm Lyme.

The new tests, manufactured by ZEUS Scientific, of Branchburg Township, New Jersey, will require only one step—a modified approach that uses only EIA technology-based tests, the FDA said.

The FDA said officials recorded 42,743 confirmed and probable Lyme cases in 2017, an increase of 17% from 2016. The disease can cause a range of symptoms from mild to debilitating, including rash, joint pain, and fever.
Jul 29 FDA
press release


Camel prion disease detected in Tunisian camels

A novel prion disease first reported in three dromedary camels in Algeria in 2018 has now been detected in dromedaries in Tunisia, the second country to be affected within a year, ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, reported yesterday.

The Tunisian detection and the latest information about the disease, called camel prion disease (CPD) and sometimes referred to as "mad camel disease", came from a presentation at the Mediterranean Animal Health Network meeting, held in Cairo on Jun 26 and 27. According to the meeting presentation, CPD is spreading rapidly in the Ouargla region of Algeria where the disease was first identified in older camels at a slaughterhouse.

The scientists who presented at the meeting also said preliminary results suggest that the CPD prion is different from scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE, or "mad cow disease").

A comment from the ProMED Mail moderator Arnon Shimshony, DVM, associate professor of veterinary medicine at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, notes that the area where CPD was first found in Algeria is about 174 miles from the Tunisian border.

In the initial report on the first detection in Algerian camels, published in April 2018 in Emerging Infectious Diseases, described disease-specific prion protein in brain tissues from symptomatic camels, including positive samples in lymph nodes, suggesting infection. The moderator also requested more details about the detections in Tunisia, including location, clinical signs, and ages and origins of affected camels.
Jul 29 ProMED Mail post
Apr 18, 2018, CIDRAP News story "'Mad camel' disease? New prion infection causes alarm"

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