Entries in Bacteria (37)


PA Health Officials Confirm 35 Cases of Raw Milk Illness

Getty Images(CHAMBERSBURG, Pa.) -- Thirty-five people across four states have been sickened by the same raw milk Pennsylvania health officials confirmed Friday, according to reports.

The Pennsylvania Health Department issued a health advisory last week recommending consumers discard any raw milk produced by The Family Cow farm since Jan. 1. At the time, there were six confirmed cases of Campylobacter infection.

The farm has suspended raw milk production and the Department of Agriculture is testing samples.

Campylobacter infection is one of the most common forms of gastroenteritis, which typically causes vomiting and diarrhea. Approximately 1,300 cases of the infection are reported each year in Pennsylvania. Raw milk is unpasteurized milk, which the FDA says can contain harmful bacteria.

28 cases were reported in Pennsylvania, and the seven other cases were among residents of Maryland, West Virginia, and New Jersey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Flushing Toilet Can Spread Diarrhea Disease

Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Flushing the toilet with the lid up can spray diarrhea-causing bacteria into the air, according to a new study of hospital toilets.

Researchers from Leeds Teaching Hospitals in the U.K. detected C. difficile—a germ that can cause diarrhea and even life-threatening inflammation of the colon—nearly 10 inches above the toilet seat after flushing lidless hospital toilets. C. difficile is frequently found in hospitals and long-term care facilities where antibiotics are common.

“The highest numbers of C. difficile were recovered from air sampled immediately following flushing, and then declined 8-fold after 60 [minutes] and a further 3-fold after 90 [minutes],” the researchers reported in the January issue of the Journal of Hospital Infection.

C. difficile was spotted on surrounding surfaces 90 minutes after flushing, with an average of 15 to 47 contaminated toilet water droplets landing in the nearby environment, according to the study.

“Lidless conventional toilets increase the risk of C. difficile environmental contamination, and we suggest that their use is discouraged, particularly in settings where [C. difficile infection] is common,” the authors wrote.

Although the study focused on hospital toilets, experts say the findings extend to public restrooms and households.

“Almost everywhere we go, except in some public spaces, we have lids on our commodes. But not everyone puts them down when they flush,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Doing so will reduce this type of environmental contamination very substantially.”

A 2004 episode of Myth Busters found lidless toilets do indeed spray water onto surrounding surfaces—including toothbrushes—but concluded the health risk was negligible. In fact “control” toothbrushes removed from the restroom during the flush were also speckled with fecal bacteria.

In recent years, C. difficile infections have increased in number and severity—a trend Schaffner said might wane if more people opt to drop the lid.

“We don’t know this, but it is intriguing,” Schaffner said. “Just remember: put the lid down before you flush and always wash your hands.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Officials: No Baby Formula Recall; Cronobacter Not Linked

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News(ATLANTA) -- Public health officials say there is no need for a recall on baby formula after testing various lots of powdered formula and nursery water.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked other health agencies around the country to look into the baby formula manufacturing following recent reports of infant illnesses from cronobacter bacteria.

“Based on test results to date, there is no need for a recall of infant formula and parents may continue to use powdered infant formula, following the manufacturer’s directions on the printed label,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC said in a joint statement Friday.

According to the statement, investigators found no links among the four reported infant infections. Furthermore, tests by the health department in Missouri, where an infant died, found cronobacter bacteria "in an opened container of infant formula, and opened bottle of nursery water and prepared infant formula.  It is unclear how the contamination occurred," officials said.

Investigators tested factory sealed "containers of powdered infant formula and nursery water with the same lot numbers as the opened containers collected from Missouri and no cronobacter were found."

The FDA and CDC both concluded, "There is currently no evidence to conclude that the infant formula or nursery water was contaminated during manufacturing or shipping.”

The investigation into the cause of the cronobacter illness infants is ongoing.  More test results can be expected in the future.

Cronobacter is a rare cause of infections in infants such as sepsis or meningitis.  The bacteria can be found in the environment, as well as in hospitals and homes, the CDC says. Symptoms can often begin with fever, poor feeding, crying or listlessness. The CDC advises that parents or guardians who notice these symptoms in their should seek the care of a physician for that child.

To reduce the risk of cronobacter illnesses, the CDC recommends breastfeeding whenever possible.  When using powdered formula, health officials suggest caregivers prepare new formula for each feeding and discard any leftovers.

More tips for preparing powdered infant formula include:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing the formula.
  • Clean all feeding equipment in hot, soapy water.
  • Prepare only enough formula for one feeding at a time and give it to the baby right away.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the printed label.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Antibiotics Be Driving Up Obesity?

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The human gut is home to a galaxy of bacteria thought to protect us from disease in the digestive tract and beyond. So what happens when we take antibiotics?

Sure, the pills can wipe out bad bacteria. But they also kill the good stuff. On top of fueling a rise in antibiotic-resistant superbugs, they could be permanently changing the gut environment -- a feat some experts fear might be making us fat.

Dr. Martin Blaser of New York University Langone Medical Center studies the effects of antibiotics on Helicobacter pylori -- a bacterium that lives quietly in most but leads to ulcers in some.

Although the majority of H. pylori infections are harmless, doctors are quick to treat them with antibiotics that change the way the stomach works.

“Antibiotics are miraculous,” Blaser told ABC News in August after publishing an editorial on antibiotic overuse. “They’ve changed health and medicine over the last 70 years. But when doctors prescribe antibiotics, it is based on the belief that there are no long-term effects. We’ve seen evidence that suggests antibiotics may permanently change the beneficial bacteria that we’re carrying.”

Blaser discussed his latest research with The New York Times, explaining that antibiotics for H. pylori trick the body into eating more by disrupting hunger hormone levels. Indeed, mice given antibiotics get fatter than their untreated counterparts despite having the same diet, Blaser said.

The findings add weight to studies that have found differences in gut bacteria between lean and obese mice. Changes in gut bacteria -- called the microbiome -- could also be a risk factor for allergies, asthma and diabetes.

“Over time, the scientific community has to create a more narrow spectrum of antibiotics to kill specific organisms and not all bacteria,” Blaser told ABC News. “But we don’t have those yet.”

On average, American children receive 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics before their 18th birthday.

In 2008, the National Institutes of Health poured $115 million into the Human Microbiome Project -- a “logical conceptual and experimental extension of the Human Genome Project,” according to a 2007 report in Nature.

“The [Human Microbiome Project] will address some of the most inspiring, vexing and fundamental scientific questions today,” the report authors wrote. “It is hoped that [it] will not only identify new ways to determine health and predisposition to diseases but also define the parameters needed to design, implement and monitor strategies for intentionally manipulating the human microbiota, to optimize its performance in the context of an individual’s physiology.”

The project could help guide treatments for various diseases, including obesity, just as the human genome has personalized some cancer therapies.

In September, German biochemist Peer Bork launched My.Microbes -- a social network that promises to connect users with similar microbiomes to share digestive woes and diet tips. Joining will help researchers explore the link between gut bacteria and various ailments, but it will cost you $2,100 and some poop.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Are America’s Dirtiest Surfaces?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(IRVING, Texas) -- A new survey has exposed the dirtiest surfaces that Americans touch and not surprisingly they are some of the most frequently touched items we come across every day.

The top offenders on the list include gas pumps, handles on public mailboxes, escalator rails, and ATM buttons.  Following closely were items like vending machine buttons, parking meters, and buttons on crosswalks.

The survey was released Tuesday by Kimberly-Clark Professional, a unit of the personal hygiene giant Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Testers drew more than 350 swabs from surfaces in U.S. cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia, and analyzed them for levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which signals the presence of animal or vegetable bacteria, yeast, or mold cells.

Everyday objects with an ATP reading of 300 or higher are considered to have a high risk for illness transmission, researchers said.

So how many of the germiest surfaces contained an ATP reading of 300 or more?

  • 71 percent of gas pump handles
  • 68 percent of mailbox handles
  • 43 percent of escalator rails
  • 41 percent of ATM buttons
  • 40 percent of parking meters/kiosks
  • 35 percent of crosswalk buttons
  • 35 percent of vending machine buttons

The fact that the top offenders were all in public places and items that people touch on their way to work, in the mall, or on the street came down to one simple fact, the survey’s leaders said: nobody cleans the things that you’re going to touch on a daily basis,” said Dr. Kelly Arehart, program leader of Kimberly-Clark’s Healthy Workplace Project.

Arehart’s colleague at the project, Brad Reynolds, said the solution is nearly as simple as the problem: wash your hands. Germs from people’s hands can transfer seven times before leaving the skin, so people should wash their hands as soon as they get to work and swab their desks frequently with a cleaning product, Reynolds said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Plaque, Appendicitis Bacterium Linked to Colon Cancer 

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A bacterium that causes appendicitis and gum disease has been detected in colon tumors, according to new research that suggests it may set the stage for colorectal cancer, the second-deadliest malignancy. Only lung cancer kills more people each year.

If the finding can be validated by larger studies, fusobacterium might one day be used to prevent and screen for colorectal cancer, currently detectable through colonoscopy or tests for the presence of blood in the stool.

Fuscobacterium also might play a role in determining the prognosis of colorectal cancers and shaping their treatment, according to two research teams independently reporting a relationship between the rod-shaped microbe and cancers of the lower digestive system.

Fuscobacterium is a known player in disorders characterized by inflammation, such as gum disease and appendicitis. Scientists have tied some strains to two inflammatory bowel diseases, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, both of which elevate the risk of colon cancer. In addition to promoting inflammation, fuscobacterium has other qualities that make it a formidable foe: it invades tissues and is sticky.

A Canadian research team found significantly more fuscobacterium RNA in colon tumors than in healthy tissues from the same people. That surprised the investigators because fuscobacterium is a rare inhabitant of healthy guts.

A U.S. group compared tissues lining cancerous and healthy regions of patients' colons, looking in each for stretches of the microbes' DNA. They theorized that if bacteria and viruses were involved in the development of colorectal cancer, the quantity of the microbes in tumor tissue would differ from the quantity in adjacent healthy tissue. Indeed, looking first at tissues of nine people, and then 95 more, they found a spike in fuscobacterium species in diseased tissue.

Both studies will be published online Tuesday in the international journal Genomic Research.
Researchers say additional studies comparing bacteria in the tissues of cancer patients and healthy people could demonstrate whether there are more fuscobacterium species in the intestines of colon cancer patients than in the intestines of the general population.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cellphones Harbor Dangerous Bacteria: Researchers

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- It’s a variation on an old theme: wash your hands...and your cellphone, too!

A study conducted by two leading London universities finds that poor hygiene can lead to dirty, germ-infested -- and perhaps dangerous -- cellphones.

“If your hands are really dirty, there's a good chance that you phone is going to be really dirty,” said Dr. Ron Cutler from the University of London.

After swabbing nearly 400 phones, researchers found that one in six devices on average harbored E. coli bacteria, something that can easily be picked in the bathroom if you don't wash your hands properly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mouth Bacteria Mix Might Signal Pancreatic Cancer

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Apple founder Steve Jobs’ recent death from pancreatic cancer focused attention on one of the fastest-spreading and deadliest malignancies for which there are no obvious red flags or screening tests.

But now, UCLA researchers may have ignited a spark of hope that a saliva test could one day detect pancreatic cancer.

People particularly dread pancreatic cancer because only 5 percent of patients are alive five years after they’re diagnosed.  Jobs was more fortunate than the majority of patients with the diagnosis, because his neuroendocrine tumor was more treatable and he survived nearly eight years from the time doctors found it.

The new optimism centered around saliva tests begins with the basic premise that the human mouth is a virtual bacterial zoo, home to more than 700 species.  There are good bacteria that help with digestion and immunity, and there are bad bacteria linked to gum disease that also turn up in artery-clogging plaque associated with heart disease.

Writing in the journal Gut, Dr. James J. Ferrell and his colleagues reported finding dramatic differences in the mixtures of bacterial species in the mouths of patients with pancreatic cancer and of healthy people.  Differences also emerged between the levels of particular oral bacteria in men and women with chronic pancreatitis -- an inflammatory disorder and risk factor for pancreatic cancer -- and healthy men and women.

The study, which appeared online Wednesday, was based on an initial comparison of bacterial species in the saliva of 10 patients whose pancreatic cancer hadn’t spread to other organs, and 10 healthy people.  When the researchers analyzed quantities of various bacterial species in the various saliva samples, they found significantly more Granulicatella adiacens bacteria in the spit of cancer patients than in the saliva of healthy comparison subjects.  They had significantly lower levels of Streptococcus mitis and Neisseria elongata bacteria than the healthy controls.

To bolster their findings, they dug a little deeper by then examining saliva samples from 28 pancreatic cancer patients, 28 healthy people and 27 people with chronic pancreatitis.  The G. adiacens levels were higher in the cancer patients than either group without cancer.

So far, they’re unable to say whether different combinations of bacteria are a cause or an effect of pancreatic cancer.  The study didn’t examine changes in oral bacteria after pancreatic cancer patients had their tumors removed, nor could it track changes in oral bacteria populations through the course of disease.

However, they said, their results suggested that saliva “is a scientifically feasible and credible biomarker source” for diseases outside the mouth and is potentially attractive because it’s non-invasive and inexpensive.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Century-Old Bacteria Unearthed in New York Hospital

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was 1897. William McKinley took office as president of the United States. A New York Sun editorial told 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon that, yes, there was a Santa Claus. And someone at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City buried a time capsule full of bacteria in the cornerstone of the building.

On Wednesday, Dr. Martin Blaser, a bacteriologist and chair of the department of medicine at New York University, cracked open the capsule to take a closer look at the century-old microbes, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Blaser and his team found spores of the bacteria, called Clostridium perfringens, inside a small glass vial. These microbes still live in the intestines of modern humans, but don’t usually cause many infections these days, besides some forms of food poisoning. But at the turn of the 20th century, they often caused infections that led to gangrene.

Even though modern medicine keeps us from being sickened by Clostridium perfringens, Dr. William Schaffner, head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, said Blaser still has good reason to study these aged organisms.

“He’s trying to see how different this particular strain of organisms is compared with present-day varieties of the bacteria,” Schaffner said. “We may find to our surprise that the bacteria are somewhat different.”

The widespread use of antibiotics, beginning with the 1928 discovery of penicillin, has had a lasting impact on lots of bacteria, particularly on their genes. Blaser told the Journal that he and his team will be looking for how these drugs might have affected Clostridium perfringens.

The key will be to get the microbes to wake up and start growing. Schaffner said the doctors who buried the time capsule would have known that these bacteria could survive for decades in the austere environment of the glass vial.

“These bacteria can go into hibernation, letting them survive eons without exposure to moisture,” he said. “Now, they’re going to put them in a hospitable environment, surround this spore with a high-grade liquid lunch inside a test tube, and we hope it will wake up and transform into something we can study.”

If the bacteria spores are still alive, Blaser’s team said they should start growing within 24 hours.

“It’s pretty cool if the spores are still viable, and will be cooler still if they actually find a genetic difference,” said David Topham, co-director of the New York Influenza Center of Excellence. “But it’s going to take some time to sort it out.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Social Network for Gut Bacteria?

Medioimages/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- Finally, you can share the status of your gut bacteria with your friends.

In exchange for $2,100 and a bit of “poop,” My.Microbes will sequence your gut microbiome, the genetic blueprints for the throng of organisms lining your digestive tract.

In addition to collecting piles of data for scientists studying gut diseases and obesity, the site promises to connect users with similar gut microbiomes to share digestive issues and diet tips. Whether users will personally benefit from participating, however, remains unclear.

The website also encourages non-participants to donate money.

The hefty fee covers the cost of shipping the stool sample kit and the gene sequencing process. But other gene sequencing services, such as 23andMe, cost a fraction of My.Microbes’ price tag. That, My.Microbes creator Peer Bork told Nature, is because the gut microbiome contains around 5 billion letters of DNA, more than 2 billion more than the human genome.

The people at My.Microbes hope that one day the gut microbiome could help guide treatments for various diseases just as the human genome has personalized some cancer therapies.

For MyMicrobes to generate a meaningful heap of data, it will need about 5,000 participants. As of Thursday morning, it had 134, but not all of them have committed to the fee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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