Unwrapping a tamale drama on Christmas

At Amapola market in Downey, people stood in line for hours last week for the famous masa, the ground cornmeal for tamales — centerpiece of many a Christmas dinner.

getimage-ashxLoyal customers came from miles around for 30-and 40-pound batches that they would use in their elaborate holiday cooking ritual. But this year, they found themselves scrambling for doctors’ numbers, sending guests home hungry and rummaging through cupboards for backup plans.

At Maria Coronado’s house, dozens of guests made do with a desperate meal of spaghetti and nachos. The tamales had turned out gloppy, and her husband felt so sick after a few bites that he had to visit the doctor.

“We didn’t have dinner for Christmas,” said Coronado, 51, who has shopped at Amapola markets for 30 years and has always regarded their masa as excellent, well worth the drive from her home in Riverside.

She was back in line Monday, waiting for a refund of the $143 she spent, along with hundreds of others complaining of bad tamales, stomach cramps, fever, nauseated children — and ruined Christmases. Others were lining up at Amapola stores in Compton, Paramount and West Covina.

“We’re devastated,” said Carlos Galvan Jr., the company’s vice president and chief financial officer. “We’re not entirely sure yet what occurred.”

Galvan, whose father and grandfather started the market chain in 1961, said the bad tamales seem to stem from a problem with a 120,000-pound supply of raw corn purchased from a longtime California vendor, though he refused to provide the name. He said Amapola has since switched vendors.

Diner that catered lunch for health types didn’t have permit ‘We expect they would refuse our request’

The restaurant that provided the meal that sickened at least 70 state health department workers in Santa Fe, NM, didn’t have a permit to cater events.

kick-ass-sandwich-shopThe New Mexico Environment Department says the diner — until recently called the Bad Ass Sandwich Shop but now called the Kick Ass Sandwich Shop because of a legal dispute, see the NSFV video below – will be served with a notice of violation for not having a catering permit.

Paul Rhien, a spokesman for the Health Department, said Friday that epidemiology tests confirmed the contamination came from the restaurant’s food.

Shannon Quintana of Kick Ass Sandwich Shop couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. He told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper that he didn’t cater the Dec. 14 lunch and that the Health Department had ordered food from Kick Ass to be served alongside other dishes brought by employees.

But Rhien told Mark Oswald of the Albuquerque Journal the restaurant set up a buffet line and served food, and there weren’t many food items prepared by Health Department workers.

The Health Department’s holiday lunch, which was held in the department’s offices at the Runnels Building – where employees headquartered there are the same ones who investigate disease outbreaks around the state – resulted in “reports of a number of employees becoming ill with mild gastrointestinal illness,” according to a message sent to employees Monday by Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher.

More than 200 department workers are estimated to have attended and about 71 reported gastrointestinal symptoms that developed within 24 to 48 hours.

Rhien said Friday that the Department of Health was not aware the sandwich shop didn’t have a catering permit. “If a restaurant doesn’t have the appropriate permit, we would expect them to refuse our request to cater an event — just as anyone would expect,” he said in an e-mail.

“The lab results from our epidemiological investigation confirmed that Clostridium perfringens bacteria were the source of the outbreak.”

The holiday lunch was paid for with worker contributions to an employee events committee, not by taxpayers, Rhien said.

We’re all hosts on a parasitic planet: Crypto edition

This is cool: the parasite seems to deliver RNA transcripts into infected hosts cells, which may then take over parts of transcription in the host.

crypto-mouse-epi-cellCryptosporidium parvum is an important opportunistic parasite pathogen for immunocompromised individuals and a common cause of diarrhea in young children. Previous studies have identified a panel of RNA transcripts of very low protein-coding potential in C. parvum.

Using an in vitro model of human intestinal cryptosporidiosis, we report here that some of these C. parvum RNA transcripts were selectively delivered into the nuclei of host epithelial cells during C. parvum infection. Nuclear delivery of several such parasitic RNAs, including Cdg7_FLc_0990, involved heat-shock protein 70-mediated nuclear importing mechanism. Overexpression of Cdg7_FLc_0990 in intestinal epithelial cells resulted in significant changes in expression levels of specific genes, with significant overlapping with alterations in gene expression profile detected in host cells following C. parvum infection.

Our data demonstrate that C. parvum transcripts of low protein-coding potential are selectively delivered into epithelial cells during infection and may modulate gene transcription in infected host cells.

Delivery of parasite RNA transcripts into infected epithelial cells during Cryptosporidium infection and its potential impact on host gene transcription

J Infect Dis. (2016) doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiw607

Yang Wang, Ai-Yu Gong, Shibin Ma, Xiqiang Chen, Yan Li, Chun-Jen Su, Dana Norall, Jing Chen, Juliane K. Strauss-Soukup, Xian-Ming Chen

http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/12/21/infdis.jiw607.abstract

New blood tests can detect prions

Tine Hesman Saey of Science News reports a new blood test can detect even tiny amounts of infectious proteins called prions, two new studies show.

prion-test-dec-16Incurable prion diseases, such as mad cow disease (BSE) in cattle and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people, result from a normal brain protein called PrP twisting into a disease-causing “prion” shape that kills nerve cells in the brain. As many as 30,000 people in the United Kingdom may be carriers of prions that cause vCJD, presumably picked up by eating BSE-tainted beef. Health officials worry infected people could unwittingly pass prions to others through blood transfusions. Four such cases have already been recorded. But until now, there has been no way to screen blood for the infectious proteins.

In the test, described December 21 in Science Translational Medicine, magnetic nanobeads coated with plasminogen — a protein that prions grab onto — trap prions. Washing the beads gets rid of the rest of the substances in the blood. Researchers then add normal PrP to the beads. If any prions are stuck to the beads, the infectious proteins will convert PrP to the prion form, which will also stick to the beads. After many rounds, the researchers could amplify the signal enough to detect vCJD prions in all the people in the studies known to have the disease.

No healthy people or people with other degenerative brain diseases (including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) in either study had evidence of the infectious proteins in their blood. And only one of 83 people with a sporadic form of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease tested positive. Those results indicate that the test is specific to the vCJD prion form, so a different test is needed to detect the sporadic disease. 

In two cases, researchers detected prions in frozen blood samples collected 31 months and 16 months before people developed vCJD symptoms.

6 sick with Campy linked to raw milk in UK

Six cases of campylobacter have so far been linked to people consuming unpasteurised milk from Low Sizergh Barn Farm in Kendal.

low-sizergh-barn-farm-in-kendalSouth Lakeland Council said it had launched a joint investigation with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The farm said it was co-operating with the inquiry and had suspended sales of raw milk from a vending machine.

Public Health England (PHE) also asked anyone who had bought raw milk from the farm or visited its tearoom in the past two months to complete an online questionnaire.

The farm, which began offering unpasteurised milk from its vending machine in March, sells about 70 litres a day.

In August the farm won a National Trust fine farm produce award for its unpasteurised milk.

Crypto hits NSW pools

As we chill (sweat) in the sleepy haven of South Golden Beach in New South Wales for a brief Christmas break, health authorities report Cryptosporidium has sickened at least 200 people in December and are warning people with diarrhea to stay out of shared pools.

sorenne-south-golden-beach-16The Sydney Morning Herald reports almost half of the cases were in children under 10-years-old. 

Health authorities have issued the warning urging people to stay out of shared swimming pools and water parks.

The biggest outbreak of cryptosporidiois was recorded in Sydney in 1998, when there were more than 1,000 confirmed cases.

Sydney was forced to boil its drinking water because it was found to be infected with the pathogens cryptosporidium and giardia.

Golden Ponds to reopen after bad gravy sickens 260

Golden Ponds Restaurant in suburban Rochester, New York – Rochester, who goes to Rochester — has been cleared by the health department to reopen, after 260 people were sickened after eating Thanksgiving dinner.

doug-turkey-cater_-nov_-16-300x225The restaurant will most likely be open for business starting next Tuesday, according to the owner.

The Monroe County Department of Health shut the restaurant down the day after Thanksgiving, after 60 people initially reported illnesses following eating food from Golden Ponds.

According to the health department, lab results point to an outbreak of Clostridium perfringens.

Officials say it is “most likely” that the gravy served was the source of the bacteria. They also noted that lapses in food safety practices were observed during their investigation.

Golden Ponds had previously been inspected several times in the months leading up to the outbreak, and had violations including food being stored at improper temperatures.

107 hospitalized after spaghetti meal in Philippines

Thanks to one of our readers for forwarding the following item by Odessa O. Leyson of The Freeman:

spaghetti-cebu-philepinnesAt least 107 residents of Sitio Tawagan in the mountain barangay of Sirao, Cebu City landed in the hospital Tuesday due to diarrhea and severe dehydration.

Nagiel Bañacia, head of the city’s disaster team, said the city health office is now looking into information that the residents suffered from the ailments after eating spaghetti given by an owner of a flower farm there.

Bañacia is withholding the identity of the farm owner until investigation is concluded.

He said the disaster team had to go up the barangay Tuesday night after receiving reports several of those affected were medicating themselves. Many residents have already sought help at the Guba Community Hospital at this point.

The Guba Community Hospital can accommodate only 50 patients, which was why four other doctors, eight nurses, and medical technologists had to be deployed there.

Bañacia said the city government will shoulder the hospital expenses using the disaster fund.

 

Cook it: Toxo in pork

Toxoplasma gondii is one of the leading foodborne pathogens in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that T. gondii accounts for 24% of deaths due to foodborne illness in the United States.

raw-meat-120607Consumption of undercooked pork products in which T. gondii has encysted has been identified as an important route of human exposure. However, little quantitative evaluation of risk due to different pork products as a function of microbial quality at the abattoir, during the production process, and due to consumer handling practices is available to inform risk management actions.

The goal of this study was to develop a farm-to-table quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model to predict the public health risk associated with consumption of fresh pork in the United States.

T. gondii prevalence in pigs was derived through a meta-analysis of existing data, and the concentration of the infectious life stage (bradyzoites) was calculated for each pork cut from an infected pig. Logistic regression and log-linear regression models were developed to predict the reduction of T. gondii during further processing and consumer preparation, respectively. A mouse-derived exponential dose-response model was used to predict infection risk in humans. The estimated mean probability of infection per serving of fresh pork products ranges from 3.2 × 10−7 to 9.5 × 10−6, corresponding to a predicted approximately 94,600 new infections annually in the U.S. population due to fresh pork ingestion. Approximately 957 new infections per year were estimated to occur in pregnant women, corresponding to 277 cases of congenital toxoplasmosis per year due to fresh pork ingestion.

In the context of available data, sensitivity analysis suggested that cooking is the most important parameter impacting human health risk. This study provides a scientific basis for risk management and also could serve as a baseline model to quantify infection risk from T. gondii and other parasites associated with meat products.

Quantifying the risk of human Toxoplasma gondii infection due to consumption of fresh pork in the United States

Food Control, Volume 73, Part B, March 2017, Pages 1210–1222

Miao Guo, Elisabetta Lambertini, Robert L. Buchanan, Jitender P. Dubey, Dolores E. Hill, H. Ray Gamble, Jeffrey L. Jones, Abani K. Pradhan

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713516305825

Campy increasing in Sweden

An unusually high number of people have been struck by Campylobacter in Sweden this winter, resulting in a less than festive combination of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains.

vomit-birdThe number of infections usually peaks during the late summer months then drops off, but this year has yet to see a notable downward curve, Sweden’s Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) warns.

The growth coincides with an increase in campylobacter among flocks of chicken in Sweden, and fresh chicken is therefore thought to be a culprit.

 “The explanation we have right now is that we eat a lot of chicken. We eat a lot of fresh chicken, and campylobacter can be found in the fresh chicken to a certain extent,” Folkhälsomyndigheten spokesperson Britta Björkholm noted.

“If you’re not careful with your hygiene you risk coming down with it,” she added.

Between August and November 2016 twice as many cases were reported as normal, and that pattern has continued into the last month of the year.

About 100 cases are usually reported in December, but in December 2016 the number was almost 300 by the middle of the month.

“People are not being sufficiently careful about separating raw chicken from utensils and work surfaces,” Björkholm insisted.