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  • KristinaRichmond 5:22 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , EHEC, Escherichia coli, Japan, Naha   

    E. coli 0121 Outbreak Naha, Japan 

    E. coliOn October 2nd, an E. coli outbreak was reported at a childcare facility in Naha, Japan. The strain implicated in the infection was Enterohemorrhagic E. coli 0121. The first case identified was from a nurse who worked at the childcare center. Ten people in total became ill with mild gastrointestinal symptoms. Seven of the cases were children. The source of the infection is still unknown.

    Japan may be particularly sensitive when it comes to E. coli outbreaks, especially among school-aged children. Back in 1996, one of the worst E. coli outbreaks ever seen worldwide occurred in Sakai City Japan. Ultimately, an astonishing 9,451 people became ill from the bacteria, and 12 people died. Most of those affected by the outbreak were school children.

    The causative strain was identified as E. coli O157:H7; however, the source of E. coli was not identified until three years later when scientists conducted studies aimed at tracing the source. In their report they concluded that radish sprouts from a single farm were responsible for the outbreak. The sprouts had been shipped to various schools to be included in the children’s lunches.radish sprout

    This extreme example, and the more recent outbreak show the difficulties in attributing an E. coli outbreak to a particular source. Without knowing the origin of an outbreak, it is more difficult to get it under control, and can quickly get out of hand as seen in 1996 incident. This is an important idea to consider as last year alone Japan experienced 4153 cases of EHEC (according to the National Institute of Infectious Disease).

    Despite current conditions, there may be good news for future improvements to Japan’s E. coli testing. According to a study reported in Food Safety News, the global market for E. coli testing is predicted to increase by nearly one billion dollars by 2022, with Asia being the region expected to see the most growth. Technologies are being developed to make E. coli testing quicker and more cost effective.

    It will be interesting to see if faster, and more frequent testing can have any significant impact in preventing or minimizing future outbreaks. It is easy to wonder if Japan had had more funding or technology devoted to testing for E. coli back in 1996 if the outbreak would have reached the staggering number of cases that it did. Even now, this recent outbreak shows the continued difficulty in tracking the spread of E. coli infections. Luckily, this time the outbreak stopped at 10 cases.


    What do you think?

    Could faster and more effective methods of testing help prevent infections and stop major outbreaks?

    Also, even though the market is showing an increasing demand for E. coli testing should resources go to developing these technologies, or should money go to other areas along the food safety/disease prevention chain?


    • shinnie 6:12 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Kristina, interesting article! I know that E. coli O157:H7 is said to be one of the most common serotype implicated in foodborne illness in Japan (as well as North America) but it is quite shocking to learn that the Big Six established by the U.S. also cause many foodborne illnesses in other parts of the world. Aside from the O121 strain that you mentioned, I found through Dr. Wang’s slides that O111 has also caused an outbreak in Japan with 56 cases and 4 deaths– both of these strains belong to the Big Six! Granted, the O111 outbreak happened largely because of the patients eating a raw beef dish called “yukhoe” and we all know that not cooking food properly enables microbes to obtain “cross-protection” as well as thrive in mild environments. I think it would be interesting to see how much beef (huge E. coli reservoir) the Japanese population consumes on average, and maybe compare that number to Canada who is a gigantic beef producer and consumer (I think they mostly eat sea food?) and then we can establish whether or not it is worth the money to invest in these technologies. I also wonder what strains Japan health government tests for, and if the procedures they use are similar to the ones we employ in North America? I know currently Canada only tests for O157, but U.S. has already started testing for the Big Six in many beef products. I am thinking that Canada will start to adopt the same policies. To answer your questions, I definitely think that faster and more effective methods of testing will help prevent infections and prevent major outbreaks, but at the same time this requires a lot of resources and knowledge. If E.coli is one of the major pathogens causing illness, hospitalization, and deaths in Japan, I fully support implementing better technology for disease prevention for that purpose, but if another type of bacterium or toxin is at work, maybe it will be better to invest money on the technologies that test for those pathogens instead. All in all, I don’t think this will be difficult for Japan to do since the country is one of the most technologically developed!

    • csontani 7:21 pm on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      it’s definitely not a big surprise that E. coli can contribute to such an extreme outbreak. I personally think that Japan now has more fund to improve their food safety since they are more developed as a country. If they found a case of E. coli again in the future, they will definitely stop the spreading much faster if they have figured out a more efficient and faster way to detect the source for E. coli. Not only in Japan, but other countries should also consider improving their detection methods for E. coli since the Big Six is becoming more of a concern and not only O157:H7.

    • WinnieLiao 9:29 am on October 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It seems like other E. coli strains has “moved out” of the North American zone and starting to become an issue also in Asia. As Shinnie mentioned above, cattles are a main reservoir for E. coli. This can gradually become a concern for not only Japan but also US and Canada. Canada has large beef industry, and if E. coli problems are not resolved and taken into precaution, this may lead to an economic and reputation loss for Canadians in the future. Also we note that Japanese consume a lot of raw meats, from raw fish to raw beef. To me this means that many other pathogens other than E. coli can also make their way to the tables, causing protruding food safety issues. In the short term, I would consider faster and more effective methods of testing a good way of investigating food borne outbreaks in order to obtain the results faster and develop a coherent database. However, the result of preventing infections and stopping major outbreaks can only be accomplished in the long term, when resources become more available and preventive steps can fully be developed. I would also agree to the fact that funding should be put into the food safety/disease prevention program, especially in the training and education sector; food safety training for those working in the food plant, and public education for safe handling of foods purchased.

    • ayra casuga 10:15 am on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very intriguing article! This case definitely illustrates the severity of having an outbreak source directly linked to a vulnerable group for E.coli. More specifically, the fact that the E.coli infested radish sprouts were directly sent to schools for children’s lunches has caused the large amount of people becoming infected. Although this incident was terrible, the positive outcome is the fact that Japan is starting to pay more attention to food-borne illnesses and how to prevent another case similar or worse from happening again.

      As what Winnie had mentioned, I do believe that a good portion of their funding should go towards improving their food safety/disease prevention as a whole because of their reputation of eating a variety of their products raw. For example, the raw seafood they consume could easily be contaminated with seafood toxins. Therefore, the funding should not all go primarily to better E.coli control, but better standards towards all food products that are high risk for the majority of the population. Specifically for the case of children, I do believe more stringent cooking procedures are needed. Perhaps the school lunch program must ensure that all food products being served to children are properly cooked rather than left raw.

    • EmilyChow 7:29 pm on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great post! I find it interesting how it took 3 years for an advanced nation such as Japan to identify the source of the E. coli outbreak. Since Japan has such a large population density, many people can get sick every time there is an outbreak incident so I do think there is importance in developing fast testing methods to quickly identify the source in order to prevent any more people getting infected. On the other hand, I believe there would be a more significant impact if resources and funding went towards food safety and disease prevention. If more people were educated, especially those who handle foods in the processing industry or restaurant business, many incidences of food poisoning would not occur. Overall I believe both are important but it’s better to prevent infections from happening in the first place.

    • cvalencia 12:26 pm on November 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very informative article! I don’t know how big the population is in that area of Japan (if it’s like how it is in Tokyo), but the number of those who became ill is staggering. And we all know that children are very vulnerable in becoming ill from foodborne pathogens. This just shows how extra precautions should be taken to ensure the food is safe, especially if the food is going to be served to vulnerable populations, such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. It is also quite surprising that it took them a long time to discover the source of the illness. I guess with the rapid detection systems that we recently learned in class, it will be faster now to determine the source of illness. Do you know if E. coli has been a big problem in Japan? Or is this one the worst case that they encountered?

    • teewong 12:03 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Wow, I am surprised by the fact that they even found out the source of contamination after 3 years! I am glad though, because even though more than 9000 people were infected with the O157:H7, very little people died from this outbreak. However, it must have impacted and raised awareness in a lot of people that even fresh produce can cause tremendous harm! I feel that more technologies should be developed in testing pathogens in the producer side, so that they could eliminate the risk before they even reach the consumers. Consumers should also be educated with the food safety practices so the chances of getting infections could be minimized!

    • JorgeMadrigalPons 11:58 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s surprising that more than 9000 people got infected with sprouts from a single farm. With the technology nowadays, some new effective detection systems have been created. Hopefully, these new systems can detect outbreaks more rapidly, to prevent the spreading of outbreaks like the one discussed in your blog.

    • DeniseZhang 8:24 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think an outbreak can that easily be controlled without finding out the source of contamination. As long as the contamination is not eliminated, there are always chances for the outbreak to occur again. Fortunately that we have learned more about E.coli now. Now we know how to avoid and control its transmission, things will become much easier than before.

  • NorrisHuang 11:08 pm on October 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alberta, , , contamination, Escherichia coli, , , , Vancouver,   

    Escherichia coli on fresh produce 

    Escherichia coli (E. coli) are gram-negative, rod-shaped bacteria that cause a great number of food-borne illnesses annually. For example, according to PHAC, there were 470 reported cases of E. coli O157:H7 infections in Canada in 2013, which was the third highest among all pathogenic bacteria. Although E. coli infection is often referred to as “hamburger disease”, these bacteria also contaminates fresh produce. Earlier this year (between March 13 and 31), there were several E. coli infections cases identified in Canada, majority (9 out of 12 cases) of which were reported in Alberta. More investigations by CFIA are underway, however, leafy greens are considered to be the most possible cause of infections. Depending on strains, consequences of E. coli infections vary. Most people suffer from stomach discomfort, diarrhea and vomiting. Those who are infected with pathogenic strains such as O157:H7 may develop more severe symptoms, such as kidney failure.

    In addition to bacterial contamination, a research done by a group of UBC researchers shows a concerning fact that 97% of E. coli isolated from leafy greens samples purchased from several farmers market in Vancouver were antibiotic-resistant. To be more specific, antimicrobial resistance of E. coli on fresh green, red, and romaine lettuce samples were evaluated. 58% of samples were resistant to amikacin, 48% were resistant to trimethoprim and 45% were trimethoprim-sufamethoxazole-resistant. Resistance to nalidixic acid, kanamycin, ampicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, cefoxitin, gentamicin and tetracycline were also found. Luckily, only 13% of samples were found to be contaminated with trace amount of E. coli and the microbiological quality of produce was acceptable according to Health Canada guidelines.

    You can read more about the 12 E. coli cases in Canada here: http://globalnews.ca/news/1942601/health-officials-suspect-e-coli-illnesses-linked-to-leafy-greens/

    The use of antimicrobial agent on food animal (e.g. chicken) is one possible cause of antibiotic-resistance in E. coli on fresh produce. Antimicrobial agent is used to promote growth of food animal. Nonetheless, only 10% of the drug would be absorbed by animals and the rest will be excreted. As the wastes are applied as fertilizers. Antibiotics are also introduced to the environment (e.g. soil, water) and vegetables. Antibiotics selects for drug-resistant bacteria on leafy produce, which leads to predominant of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Additionally, contaminated irrigation water, poor personal hygiene and inadequate food processing also adversely affect microbiological safety of greens.

    To protect ourselves from E. coli contaminations on vegetables, the following precautions can be taken:

    • Wash produce thoroughly before consumption
    • Clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces properly, including cutting boards, knifes, etc.
    • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap regularly during food handling
    • Keep raw meat and vegetables separated to avoid cross-contamination
    • Store food at refrigerating temperature (< 4 ͦC) to inhibit bacterial growth

    For more information about E. coli, see: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fs-fi/ecoli-eng.php

    • Duncan 1:37 pm on October 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a test of the blog’s comment system

    • Duncan 1:39 pm on October 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a test of the blog’s comment system, take 2.

    • wen liao 2:51 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Haha this is like a very classical example about the effect of antimicrobial misuse as we have talked in class. I have also read similar articles talking about how the bacteria isolated from vegetables are resistant to one or multiple antimicrobials, which sounds quite scary to me, to be honest. However, although the issue with antimicrobial misuse has been prevalent for years and scientists have been addressing this problem at different scenarios, not very many people have taken it seriously. I have a friend who recently got flu, and his doctor prescribed him with antibiotics LOL….In addition although the stuff turkey season is almost gone, I till recall this news I read about how you should not wash store packaged turkey before you baked it in the oven. While wash the turkey with running water cannot remove the bacteria on the surface of the turkey skin, this action might spread the cells all over on the turkey causing more contamination. I don’t know if it would be the same case for your e. coli suggestions haha.

    • dgozali 9:07 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think your article brought up a very important issue of growing antimicrobial resistance. Its quite alarming that a large proportion of E. coli found on leafy greens are resistant as most people consume these vegetables raw and some might not even bother washing them as they’re often labelled as a “ready to eat” food. Hence this makes it much easier for people to get sick from consuming these products. This reminds me of the recent outbreak at UBC’s centenniel celebration where many people got sick from eating the produce from the UBC farm. Perhaps the microbes were resistant strains as well. Either way, this is an increasingly prominent issue that should be taken more seriously!

    • CindyDai 10:42 am on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      The increasing antimicrobial resistance of E. coli indicates the increasing difficulty of controlling E. coli in food industry. To protect our families, handling food safely is crucial to eliminate any E. coli survived the factory processing in leafy greens. In the original news, there are a few more useful tips from PHAC on safe food handling. I learned that we should always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating. Especially for leafy greens, we should always keep them refrigerated and only take them out of fridge right before consumption. When there are E. coli outbreaks, cooking vegetables is a better choice. Food safety is in our hands!

    • ya gao 9:00 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      After reading this post, I think it is important for government agencies like CFIA to realize the presence of antimicrobial resistant strains of E. coli on leafy green products. Although only 13% of samples were found to be contaminated with trace amount of E. coli and the microbiological quality of produce was acceptable according to Health Canada guidelines, it is a serious problem once breaks out. Leafy green products are usually considered as ready to eat foods and people consume them without heat processing step. With the increasing problem of antimicrobial resistant strains of E. coli on ready to eat foods, food safety may be threaten. CFIA should find a way to resolve this problem by controlling the use of fertilizer from animal waste, as well as doing sample testing on leafy green products more frequently.

    • AngeliMalimban 6:11 pm on December 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think it is interesting how people have a common misconception about how E. coli can only be found in raw beef. I remember my friend freaking out about my other friend preparing raw beef burgers, while she ate the salad that was from fresh produce. Could she have washed it well enough? Even then, it probably would still contain E. coli since it does not come out unless it is cooked.
      Salads are such a big fad in our society due to its nutritional value, but people should not be surprised if they get sick eating this. It’s also hard to cook vegetables because its nutritional value is best when raw, as most of the vitamins and minerals could dissolve in the water (if boiled) and let’s be real… it’s just SO much easier to eat vegetables raw so we do not have to go through the labour of cooking it!

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