Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download C.V. »

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: Scientists unlock exact structure of Hepatitis A

That was barroom discussion in graduate school 30 years ago, but not all hosts die because then there’d be no where for the viruses to have babies..

hep.a.infographicHeady stuff.

Scientists have announced that for the first time, they have determined the precise atomic structure of the Hepatitis A virus. In an unprecedented step forward, a team of scientists from Beijing and Oxford have been able to map the exact construction of Hepatitis A, down to the individual atoms. This new finding is a considerable advance for research into Hep A, one of the most resilient and difficult to control viruses and more broadly for our understanding of the virus world. The findings are published today, in the publication Nature.

Despite an existing vaccine, Hep A continues to infect 1.4 million people every year. It causes infection of the liver and symptoms can include diarrhoea, vomiting, yellow skin, fever, and abdominal pain. These findings are particularly significant due to the unique qualities of the virus. Hep A is particularly hardy unlike other viruses in the picornavirus family, which includes polio and the common cold. Hep A is able to withstand remarkably high temperatures and remain stable in hostile environments, making it difficult to control infection. It also has a unique, enveloped form, allowing it to shroud itself in the host membrane, making it harder for the body’s immune system to detect.

This discovery is ground-breaking in terms of what it reveals about the history and evolution of viruses. The findings suggest that Hep A may be the evolutionary ‘missing link’ between picornaviruses, which infect humans and animals, and some insect viruses.

By scrutinising the atomic structure of the virus, the team from the University of Oxford identified that Hep A possesses characteristics of both ancient insect viruses and modern human viruses such as polio. The methods by which it infects host cells, the very limited range of cells in which it thrives and the sheer stability of Hepatitis A all point towards it having somehow become stuck along the evolutionary trail. Where other viruses in the same picornavirus family developed into the structures we know today, Hepatitis A has remained forever frozen between the old and the new.

Hep A has proved difficult to study in the past. Using the advanced X-ray techniques at the UK’s synchrotron science facility, Diamond Light Source, scientists were able to study the virgech_0001_0002_0_img0129us at an atomic level. Diamond Light Source, is the UK’s national synchrotron, a giant x-ray machine the size of Wembley Stadium. It is the largest science machine the UK has ever built and produces a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. 3,500 scientists and industry users from the UK and across the world, visit the synchrotron every year, to carry out cutting-edge scientific research.

Viruses are some of the oldest and most pervasive elements of the natural world. There are more viruses on Earth than all bacteria, plant and animal life combined, and they can evolve much faster than any living thing. Because they are so diverse and develop so quickly, it can be difficult to work out how they are related and how they evolved. Scientists know enough to group similar viruses into different families, but the question of their history and how these families came to exist in their current form has been very difficult to unravel.

Recent advances in technology have allowed scientists to look more closely at the structures of challenging viruses. Upgrades to facilities for analysing viruses at the Diamond synchrotron – which produces powerful X-ray light for scientists to use in their research – make it easier for whole viruses to be scrutinised in minute detail. Using Diamond’s crystallography ‘beamlines’ the group has uncovered vital new insights into how viruses have evolved.

Dave Stuart, Professor of Structural Biology at Oxford University and Head of Life Sciences for Diamond Light Source led the research into Hepatitis A. He points out exactly why these findings are so significant: “Viruses are too small and fragile to leave a fossil record, and change so quickly that many people would despair of piecing together the story of their evolution, so it is wonderful to see that their intricate details show mechanisms that form missing links between different families.”

The message is clear: the more we know about virus history and relationships, the more prepared we are to tackle viruses that pose a serious threat now and in the future; that’s why it’s so important to understand the fundamental atomic processes required for a virus to replicate and survive. This underpinning knowledge is the groundwork for the next stage, the production of improved vaccines and effective anti-viral drugs. Using advanced new technology such as Diamond, scientists are able to unpick the mysteries of even the most enigmatic viruses, atom by atom.

The findings are published today in the publication Nature. The paper is entitled ‘Hepatitis A virus and the origins of picornaviruses’.

Blame it on the (chicken) juice — enhances surface attachment and biofilm formation of Campylobacter

We were having dinner with friends Sunday night, and they do a Chinese-style cooking that is light and yummy, but I noticed a lot of cross-contamination going on during the prep (can someone please come up with a better name than cross-contaminaion, and more succinct than, dangerous bugs move around a lot).

icarly.chicken.cell.handsThe patron said, that’s why you cook it, and I said, just cook it doesn’t cut it, and explained why.

We may never be invited for dinner again.

The next day (another school holiday) the two 5-years-olds were with me for a few hours, so after a couple of hours at the park, I decided we would make two cakes — one gluten/dairy free, one traditional.

I don’t like cake but it is a part of my spring ritual of getting rid of spices that have accumulated for six years and, like Ikea furniture, crap that looked good at the store but awful at home.

The girls became involved in an extended discussion of Salmonella, eggs and cross-contamination.

They enjoyed the cake.

Brown et al. published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology that the bacterial pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is primarily transmitted via the consumption of contaminated foodstuffs, especially poultry meat. In food processing environments, C. jejuni is required to survive a multitude of stresses and requires the use of specific survival mechanisms, such as biofilms. An initial step in biofilm formation is bacterial attachment to a surface.

Here, we investigated the effects of a chicken meat exudate (chicken juice) on C. jejuni surface attachment and biofilm formation. Supplementation of brucella broth with ≥5% chicken juice resulted in increased biofilm formation on glass, polystyrene, and stainless steel surfaces with four C. jejuni isolates and one C. coli isolate in both microaerobic and aerobic conditions. When incubated with chicken juice, C. jejuni was both able to grow and form biofilms in static cultures in aerobic conditions. Electron microscopy showed that C. jejuni cells were associated with chicken juice particulates attached to the abiotic surface rather than the surface itself.

sorenne.doug.usa.today.jun.11This suggests that chicken juice contributes to C. jejuni biofilm formation by covering and conditioning the abiotic surface and is a source of nutrients. Chicken juice was able to complement the reduction in biofilm formation of an aflagellated mutant of C. jejuni, indicating that chicken juice may support food chain transmission of isolates with lowered motility. We provide here a useful model for studying the interaction of C. jejuni biofilms in food chain-relevant conditions and also show a possible mechanism for C. jejuni cell attachment and biofilm initiation on abiotic surfaces within the food chain.

Helen L. Brown, Mark Reuter, Louise J. Salt, Kathryn L. Cross, Roy P. Betts, and Arnoud H. M. van Vliet

http://aem.asm.org/content/80/22/7053.abstract?etocjejuni

Stay at home, thoroughly clean: Pennyslvania hospital implements improvements after norovirus affects 19 staffers

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recently improved its virus-detection process after a state Health Department investigation revealed the room of a patient suffering from norovirus in April was inadequately cleaned amid an outbreak among nurses there.

vomit.toiletThe Health Department report was based on an investigation completed in May after 19 nursing staffers working in the same unit fell ill with norovirus – a highly contagious but generally nonlife-threatening gastrointestinal bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea.

The report found that the room of a patient suffering from the virus in the same unit on the weekend of April 5-6 had not been properly cleaned with bleach as required by the hospital’s infection-control policy. All but three of the affected staffers had developed symptoms between March 11 and March 23, before the inadequate cleaning, according to the report.

The report said hospital procedures also were not properly followed in early March when a patient’s mother displayed norovirus symptoms March 8 while visiting. “There was no documented evidence that [Infection Control] was notified of this incident,” the report said. Whether that patient room was adequately cleaned is unclear in the report.

The Health Department investigation also found that staffers who were out sick with norovirus were not instructed to follow hospital protocol of staying home until they were symptom-free for 48 hours until March 27 – after the majority of the affected staff already had been ill. Only three additional staffers fell ill after that date, the report said.

vomit.infosheet.oct.08

Eggs? 3 sick with Salmonella during festival of Pilar in Spain

Three people were stricken with Salmonella and hospitalized during the past holiday Pilar in Zaragoza.

Venida_de_la_Virgen_del_Pilar_(Ximenez_de_Maza)The latest data published by the Public Health Epidemiological Bulletin of Aragon recorded a total of 480 food poisoning during the 2014, slightly above the estimated public health figure for this period, which is 431 based on the data accumulated in the last five years in the community. Last week a total of 9 cases were detected in the community. Five of them were in the province of Zaragoza and the four others in Huesca.

Most outbreaks of food poisoning (TIA) and acute gastroenteritis (AGE) are caused by spoiled food. The tendency of these eating disorders has been rising in recent months in Aragon. In May, the figure exceeded 200 affected after a major outbreak group of 13 people. The figure rose again in June, when it came to 242 It is precisely in the summer when poisoning soar and egg products are often the main cause of salmonella.

Canadian says McDonald’s coffee contained dead mouse

Ron Morais of Fredericton says he got more than he bargained for when he picked up a cup of coffee from a local McDonald’s restaurant on his way to work.

dead-mouseHe was contendedly sipping his coffee that he got Monday from the Prospect Street location until he got to the bottom of the paper takeout cup.

“I always take the lid off to get my last sip of coffee. And when I took the lid off, there was a little bit of a surprise in my coffee cup. It was a dead mouse,” Morais said.

Morais said that wasn’t all that was in the cup. He said the mouse left “a few little, shall we say, presents” at the bottom of it.

Morais then showed a few of his co-workers what he had found.

“Unless I had been there and seen Ron drink all that coffee down to the last drop, I would have been, like, ‘You’re lying,’” said one colleague, Brad Patterson.

Jennifer LaHaye, another co-worker who saw the mouse, recalls Morais’s reaction.

“’Oh my God, there’s a mouse in my coffee,’ is what he says. I turn around and look at him. The first time I looked, I actually looked and it’s really, he’s not joking,” LaHaye said.

“Like is he OK — and after that, I got green to the gills.”

Jason Patuano, the communications manager for the eastern region for McDonald’s Canada, issued a corporate statement that underscored how seriously the chain takes food safety.

“We take allegations involving cleanliness and sanitation very seriously,” the statement said.

“Upon learning of this situation, the local franchisee immediately began an investigation, including working closely with the local public health authority who conducted an inspection this [Tuesday] morning following receiving a complaint.”

14K tests, 98.7% compliance: Canadian annual microbiology report 2011-12

The Government of Canada verifies that food produced and/or sold in Canada meets federal food safety standards to ensure Canadians have confidence in what they buy. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) monitors and regulates food products that are produced domestically and moved inter-provincially, or are imported.

professor.fink.Simpsons.jpgWithin Canada, all food products must comply with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, which set out criteria for safe food and clearly prescribe restrictions on the production, importation, sale, composition and content of food.

The National Microbiological Monitoring Program (NMMP) is one of many tools utilized by the CFIA to verify that domestically produced and imported products meet Canadian standards. It is designed to sample and test a broad range of imported and domestic commodities for multiple hazards, including microbial hazards and extraneous material. The testing carried out under the NMMP covers red meat and poultry products, shell eggs and egg products, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables and processed fruit and vegetable products.

As CFIA focuses its monitoring activities towards specific food-related hazards that may impair the health and safety of Canadians, it is important to note that most testing is in commodities that are not further processed by the consumer as well as in raw food, that if not properly cooked, can lead to illness. It is generally accepted that proper precautions taken in the home will destroy any bacteria that may be present.

During the 2011/12 fiscal year under the NMMP, 14307 tests were performed on 5234 domestic and imported products. Specifically, 9049 tests were performed on 3678 domestic products and 5258 tests were performed on 1556 imported products to verify they were compliant with Canadian standards. Results indicated that domestic products were 99.0% compliant and imported products were 98.0% compliant. Overall, a 98.7% compliance rate for combined domestic and imported products was observed.

In addition to testing food products, wash water samples and surface swabs taken within the food production environment are used to verify that food products are produced under sanitary conditions. This type of environmental sampling was performed in domestic establishments to verify the operator systems’ ability to control the presence of pathogens within the processing environment. During 2011/12, there were 2300 tests performed on 1878 environmental samples which were assessed as 97.5% compliant.

The results of the 2011/12 NMMP sampling activities demonstrate that the products available in the Canadian marketplace are for the majority compliant with national standards. 

More tampered Canadian potatoes discovered

CBC News reports that tampered potatoes from P.E.I. have reached other parts of Atlantic Canada.

Potato Head2Over the last few days, police received three reports of tampered potatoes, one in Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia, one in Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland and one in Chance Cove, Newfoundland.

All the potatoes contained a metal object. 

Police believe the potatoes originated from Linkletter Farms in P.E.I.

In all three of the most recent instances, the foreign metal objects were discovered prior to consumption and no one was injured.

With the latest reports, this makes five reports so far of metal objects found in potatoes packaged at Linkletter Farms.

All the tampered potatoes were on a voluntary recall list issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, October 7.

Tweeting for foodborne illness

In less than a year, a Chicago Department of Public Health website launched to track Twitter traffic for foodborne illness complaints turned up 21 restaurants that failed unannounced health inspections (Harris JK et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63[32]:681-685).

twerkingDubbed Foodborne Chicago, the website uses an algorithm that parses Chicago-area tweets that include the words “food poisoning.” Project staff members then review the tweets for references to stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, or other terms than may indicate food-borne illness. Staff members respond and ask the Twitter users to report on Foodborne Chicago their illness and where they ate. The web forms go directly to the Chicago 311 system that handles nonemergency city services. From March 2013 to January 2014, Foodborne Chicago identified 2241 “food poisoning” tweets, of which 270 described specific food-borne illness complaints. Eight of those 270 tweets mentioned a visit to a physician or a hospital emergency department. Overall, 193 food poisoning complaints were submitted through Foodborne Chicago. About 10% sought medical care.

The complaints triggered unannounced health inspections at 133 restaurants; 21 failed their inspections and were closed. Another 33 restaurants passed with conditions, indicating that serious or critical violations were identified and corrected.

In related news, Carol Beach of The Packer says Foodborne Chicago researcher, Jenine Harris of Washington University in St. Louis, reported health officials in Boston and New York City are considering similar Twitter taps.

In September, researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute published results in the journal “Prevention Medicine” that showed a strong correlation between negative customer reviews on the website Yelp and foodborne illness outbreaks tracked by the CDC.

The study included more than 5,800 reviews of restaurants posted from 2005 through 2012.

Results showed that social media reviews could complement traditional outbreak surveillance methods by providing rapid information on suspected foodborne illnesses, the implicated foods and the restaurants involved, according to the research report.

The Virginia researchers looked at five categories of food and the rates at which Yelp reviewers reported an illness compared to the rates of CDC’s reported illness information and found very similar results:

  • Vegetables implicated in 22% of illnesses reported on Yelp, 25% from CDC;
  • Fruits and nuts implicated in 7% on Yelp, 7% from CDC;
  • Meat and poultry implicated in 32% on Yelp, 33% from CDC;
  • Dairy and eggs implicated in 23% on Yelp, 23% from CDC; and
  • Seafood implicated in 16% percent on Yelp, 12% from CDC.

Elaine Nsoesie, co-author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University, wrote that consumer reviews or tweets about illnesses could be an an additional tool to help public health authorities detect outbreaks earlier.

Squirts Stars, thermometers and gender stuff

In Canada we call the little kids that play hockey, Novices.

sorenne.coffs.horbor.14In Brisbane they call them Squirts.

Novice is better.

Whatever they’re called, mucho kudos to the Brisbane  Southern Stars Squirts (5-9-years-old) on winning all six games at the 4th Annual 3-on-3 tournament at Coff’s Harbour, NSW, during the school holidays (Oct. 4-6, 2014)

I was out a couple of games, but Sheldon (another Canadian) ably stepped up (and his wife helped me), and his daughter Noelle, who may actually be younger than Sorenne, rocked it. I spoke with the kids afterwards to address any concerns and they seemed cool.

We may have gotten outshot every game, but superstar goalie Ronan Hoy registered two shutouts and pulled us though every other game. Each team member was awarded a gold medal, and coach Doug Powell’s medal is already proudly hanging downstairs with old-timey hockey paraphernalia.

Cole Hardiman was a scoring machine while brother Liam was no slouch (thanks for your help, parents Susan and Brad), while Onrii and Didier Dalgity chipped in as well. John Kelly, Alex Wentz Luke McNamara, and Ethan Poole all knew their role and to watch little kids change on the fly, pay attention to offside, and spread out and pass the puck was gratifying when we haven’t really practiced it.

sorenne.stick.hit.oct.14I apologize if I missed anyone, just like when I wake up in the morning and apologize to my wife for anything that may happen, and apologize when I go to bed for anything that did.

And of course we don’t teach little girls to hit other players in the back of the calves where there is no padding; that would be unsportspersonlike.

I didn’t go to the BBQ but Amy did and took a tip sensitive digital thermometer. A coupe of the dads said “Really?”

It’s food safety 1978 here, and more about that next week.

Thanks to all the parents for their time and helping to build the sport.

In a related but sorta unrelated story, my friend Elizabeth Weise, one of the few remaining reporters at the The USA Today, sent out a note asking now that “Apple and Facebook include egg freezing as a benefit. I’m curious what working mothers might think of this. One woman I know said it made her feel as if these companies were in effect saying to employees that they should have kids later on, on their own time. She worried anyone who actually had kids would be seen as a slacker who wasn’t committed to the job. Any thoughts? I’d love to quote some real mothers in the story.”

Also, “Anyone have thoughts they’d like to share with USA Today on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s comment yesterday that women in tech don’t need to ask for raises, they should just trust the system to do well by them.

braun.sorenne.hockeyI can put you in touch with Beth.

How about another gender story? Most people know this– it’s a not a secret.

My comment to Beth was that as a father of five hockey-playing daughters – he’s a jackass.

We’ll work more on positioning for the rest of the season, as well as the basics.

Also, the girls-only session last week was a success. When we started the Guelph girls hockey league in about 1996, (that’s in Ontario, in Canada, a town of about 120,000), the girls came out of the woodwork and now is a vibrant league with house league, various rep teams, and probably some 1,000 girls playing.

girls.hockey.international.oct.14

dp

Dr. Douglas Powell

powellfoodsafety.com

barfblog.com

dpowell29@gmail.com