Salmonella in snakes

For humans, Salmonella is always bad news. The bacterial pathogen causes paratyphoid fever, gastroenteritis and typhoid. But for snakes, the bacteria aren’t always bad news. Certain species of Salmonella are a natural part of the snake microbial collective. However, the occasional species can cause a disease. Reptile handlers would love to know when they have a potentially problematic pathogen lurking in the midst of their snakes.

UnknownTo better understand the variety of Salmonella species harbored by captive reptiles, Staten Island Zoo has teamed up with the microbiology department at Wagner College. Eden Stark, a graduate student on the project, her advisor, Christopher Corbo, and the zoo’s curator and head veterinarian Marc Valitutto want to know how many Salmonella species live among the Staten Island Zoo rattlesnakes. The zoo has a long history of exhibiting one of the most comprehensive rattlesnake collections in the world, currently with 21 of 38 species on display.

So far, Stark has surveyed 26 species of snakes. “Few other institutions have undertaken such broad scale analysis of Salmonella in snakes,” notes Valitutto. The research will be presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Annual Meeting during Experimental Biology 2015.

In particular, the investigators are on the lookout for pathogenic species of Salmonella, such as Salmonella arizonae. This species of Salmonella has been known to cause infections in snakes called osteomyelitis. It has a predilection for the bones, such as the vertebra. The bone may deform, and as the infection spreads, the deformed vertebrae may stop the snake from slithering.

The infection may be surgically removed or treated with antibiotics if it’s localized and caught early enough. But if left untreated, the infection may eventually cause the snake to die.

“If we do get a snake that is positive for arizonae, we’re concerned,” says Valitutto. “We would not want add something like that to our collection because there’s a possibility it will infect our other reptiles.”

Another reason to account for the different Salmonella species is for the safety for the zookeepers. Salmonella “is strictly a pathogen for humans. It’s something that anyone who handles reptiles, even people who keep them at home as pets, has to be very cautious about in handling them or anything that is part of their enclosure,” says Corbo.

To categorize the Salmonella species, Stark isolated the bacteria from snake fecal samples. The feces were collected by seasoned zookeepers at Staten Island Zoo who know how to handle venomous snakes.

snakes.on.a.planeAs expected, because snakes are natural hosts for Salmonella, Stark found a large number of Salmonella species in the fecal samples. She did find several species of Salmonella that are well-known as human pathogens, such as Salmonella typhimurium which can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and nausea for about a week.

In the few cases where Stark possibly detected the snake pathogen S. arizoniae, the news was interesting to the zoo because the snakes weren’t showing any symptoms evidence of disease. “It’s important for keepers to know that a particular species of snake is carrying a potential pathogen so they can keep an eye on it,” says Corbo.

Corbo adds that the handlers will now know that the tools they use to handle the snakes harboring S. arizonae need to be cleaned with extra care so that they don’t accidentally infect other reptiles, especially snakes.

Stark is now delving further into the analysis with the polymerase chain reaction. She is testing each Salmonella species she isolates with the technique to see if the bacteria are expressing proteins known as virulence factors. This detail is important because not every potential pathogen will express virulence factors. The bacteria only become a problem if and when they turn on the expression of virulence factors and become infectious agents (for this reason, Salmonella arizonaie within snakes can even be further subdivided into more pathogenic serotypes).

54 sickened: German eggs linked to UK Salmonella outbreak

A Salmonella outbreak at Kirkby take-away Woks Cooking has been linked to German eggs and poor hygiene.

salmonella.eggsHealth bosses have completed their final investigations into the fast food outlet which was shut down by Knowsley council last July but opened again in August and is now under new management.

The report by Public Health England (PHE) confirms food safety experts have found signs that the salmonella illnesses at Woks Cooking, as well as a series of other cases across Europe, were linked to eggs from a German supplier.

Dr Alex Stewart, from PHE’s Cheshire and Merseyside centre, said: “There is now evidence to indicate that a series of cases in Europe caused by the same strains of Salmonella were associated with consumption of eggs from a single source. The eggs from this supplier also reached distributors and food outlets in England and there is evidence to support the hypothesis that this was the same source of infection for Woks Cooking.

“Nevertheless, good practice in any food outlet accounts for the possibility of contaminated food sources; in this outbreak it is clear that poor hygiene practices with cross-contamination were the ultimate cause of the outbreak.”

It had previously been thought 25 people were struck by the salmonella in Kirkby last July but food safety experts have now confirmed 54 cases were identified which were linked to Woks Cooking, which is on Richard Hesketh Drive in Westvale.

Of these, 33 cases were microbiologically confirmed Salmonella Enteritidis PT14b and 21 were classified as probable cases.

There were nine people hospitalised during the outbreak.

A spokeswoman for PHE said they were unable to name the company which supplied the eggs from but confirmed it was German.

2 dead, 30 sickened: Australian Salmonella outbreak over

New South Wales Health has closed its investigation into the deadly salmonella outbreak that affected 32 people in aged-care facilities across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and the ACT.

Betta MaidDirector of Illawarra Shoalhaven Public Health Curtis Gregory said that since February 23, no additional residents had become unwell with salmonellosis.

The rare strain Salmonella bovismorbificans was found in 32 infected residents at 10 aged-care facilities operated or supplied by IRT. Two of the residents have since died.

“We’ve deemed the outbreak is now over as more than four weeks has elapsed since the last confirmed case. This means any incubation period for additional cases has now passed,” Mr Gregory said on Friday.

The NSW Food Authority shut down Betta Maid – an IRT supplier – on March 5 after traces of the rare strain of salmonella linked to the outbreak were found in food samples and on a contact surface. The Food Authority confirmed this week the Unanderra wholesale bakery remained closed.

Going public: Inspectors fail to reveal Salmonella outbreak at popular Calif. deli

A popular LA-area restaurant may have left nearly two dozen people with salmonella poisoning over a four-month period — and health officials failed to warn the public of the danger, an NBC4 I-Team investigation has uncovered.

brent's.deli.reubenBrent’s Deli in Westlake Village, a popular family-owned restaurant dubbed by Zagat as “the Cadillac of delis,” was the suspected source of the poisonings, according to Ventura County records obtained by the I-Team. Some victims reported eating Brent’s famous corned beef sandwiches, some ate pastrami, and others believe it was salads or soups that sickened them.

“It felt like someone reached in and was tearing out my stomach,” said J.D. Leadam of Simi Valley, 25, who said he became ill two days after eating a roast beef sandwich at Brent’s in Westlake in August. He said the nausea, body aches and diarrhea were so bad that his doctor thought he might have contracted Ebola.

Days later, tests confirmed it was salmonella.

State and Ventura County health officials began learning about salmonella cases from Brent’s customers months before Leadam ate at the restaurant, but both agencies failed to inform the public about the growing outbreak.

“I wouldn’t have eaten there if the county had warned the public,” Leadam told NBC4. “I really don’t think the health department was looking out for the public.”

Records from the state health department show the first Brent’s customer became sick with salmonella symptoms in late April, with more cases reported in May, June, July and August. In total, 21 cases of salmonella were associated with the 2014 outbreak, including two Brent’s employees, according to state records.

“We generally don’t notify the public when we’re in the midst of an investigation,” said William Stratton, director of Ventura County Environmental Health, which investigated the Brent’s outbreak.

But county health departments in Los Angeles and San Francisco have alerted the public to food poisoning outbreaks within days of learning of the first cases, so that customers who experience symptoms can get proper medical care.

Bill  Marler said, “They clearly had an obligation to tell the public, from a moral and a public health perspective. This outbreak was an accident waiting to happen,” referring to Brent’s inspection history.

Since 2007, county officials have repeatedly cited Brent’s in Westlake for major health code violations — such as keeping food at unsafe temperatures and employees not properly washing their hands, both of which can spread bacteria to food.

The I-Team also found other Brent’s Westlake customers reported contracting Salmonella in 2007, 2010 and 2013 — well before the 2014 outbreak.

Ventura County health officials say in hindsight, they could have made a public statement warning the public about the outbreak.

“Is issuing a news release or notifying the public one of those things we could have done? Perhaps it is,” Stratton said. “That’s something we’re going to be evaluating.”

NBC4 spoke by phone with one of the owners of Brent’s in Westlake, Marc Hernandez, who says his restaurant is now safe to eat at.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Mexico engagement edition

A romantic couple’s plans for a dream engagement at a luxury sunshine holiday resort were wrecked – when the groom-to-be was struck by suspected salmonella poisoning.

JS59882671Joe Kilgannon, 24, and bride-to-be Cezanne Bannon, 22, are suing a holiday company after telling how their engagement at the plush Mexican getaway was ruined by the chronic food poisoning.

Newly-engaged Joe fell ill just days into the sunshine break at the five-star hotel – and had hospital treatment for salmonella poisoning back home in Britain.

He told how he “spent more time popping to the toilet rather than popping the question” when the romantic trip was ruined.

Fork lift driver Joe, of Newport, said: “Our trip to Mexico was meant to be a romantic break for us to celebrate our engagement together.

“But it was completely ruined after I became seriously ill.

“We were very disappointed with the standards at the hotel; especially at it was meant to be a five-star resort.”

The couple paid more than £2,000 for the stay at the Grand Bahia Principe in Riviera Maya, Mexico, in December to mark their engagement celebrations.

A Thomas Cook spokesman confirmed they were investigating “serious and, at present, unsubstantiated allegations” about the hotel stay.

Walking the walk

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes:

A company should be able to survive and improve in the wake of a major food recall; it’s an opportunity to reevaluate and strengthen what’s great about an operation and fix what has gone impossibly wrong.2014-03-10 17.23.50

In 2013, my dog Chloe’s (right, exactly as shown) food was recalled due to Salmonella contamination. After some struggles with refunds, we haven’t returned to feeding her any of the Natura brands foods. After trying multiple brands, we landed on the Diamond Naturals Grain Free Chicken kibble and she’s been consuming it for more than a year already. I am a fan of its ingredient list (lots of fats and proteins) and nutritional content (probiotics, omega-6 and 3, complex carbs, antioxidants), as well as its price point; Chloe seems to find it delicious.

Diamond Pet Foods had a 2012 recall due to Salmonella that resulted in 49 cases of foodborne illness in humans in 20 states due to contamination at a single production facility, discovered via a routine check. Two years later, Costco (a distributor of the Kirkland product, also recalled) settled claims for over $2M initiated by the death of Barbara Marciano’s dog, which ate the contaminated food purchased from Costco. The contaminated food had not yet been recalled. Part of the settlement included “new and improved quality control procedures and therapeutic reforms that had not been implemented prior to the recalls.”

During the investigation, the FDA observed the following: 1) All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures do not contribute contamination from any source. 2) Failure to provide handwashing and hand sanitizing facilities at each location in the plant where needed. 3) Failure to maintain equipment, containers and utensils used to convey, hold, and store food in a manner that protects against contamination. 4) Failure to maintain equipment so as to facilitate cleaning of the equipment.

Now, the Diamond website depicts its commitment to food safety and mentions: on-site product testing, mycotoxin control, microbial testing, water quality, air quality, and its test-and-hold program. To the average consumer (including myself), its difficult to decipher what this means and how it is different from the pre-recall era.

I called Diamond for an explanation.

The customer service person answered all my food safety questions without stumbling. She explained since the 2012 recall, they’ve made a lot of changes. Some of her descriptions remained a bit vague; others came with more detail. She said all ingredients are tested (a series of tests, she explained) and then multiple times as they are manufactured. There are on-site labs at each facility—one of the biggest changes since the recall. For each batch of food, they retain samples to test for Salmonella. Each batch must be tested and held before it is released; if it comes up as Salmonella-positive, they will not distribute it. She explained that they used to send samples out for testing, but not hold the product – so the dog food could be consumed by the time Salmonella was detected.

Additionally, there are new safety protocols in each of the plants; incoming products are segregated from final product, not just within a space, but also by room through the use of walls and dividers. The result, she told me, is less cross-contamination. I also asked about how manufacturing might have changed, if there were any major changes in how the food was processed and she said no.

It’s hard to know what any manufacturer is doing to reduce risk of contamination, it’s all about trust; I appreciate that Diamond answered the call and my questions. It’s important to me to believe that a company can learn from bad experiences and improve its operations in the face of a recall, rather than attempt to cheat the system or disagree with the recommendations. But I also pay close attention to pet product recalls (there are so many!); if there’s another recall like the one in 2012, there’s a good chance Chloe will get to try another brand.

Oh fishy-fishy, you’re so delicious, but a food safety challenge

Seafood forms a part of a healthy diet. However, seafood can be contaminated with foodborne pathogens, resulting in disease outbreaks. Because people consume large amounts of seafood, such disease outbreaks are increasing worldwide. Seafood contamination is largely due to the naturally occurring phenomenon of biofilm formation.

fish.headsThe common seafood bacterial pathogens that form biofilms are Vibrio spp., Aeromonas hydrophila, Salmonella spp., and Listeria monocytogenes. As these organisms pose a global health threat, recent research has focused on elucidating methods to eliminate these biofilm-forming bacteria from seafood, thereby improving food hygiene. Therefore, we highlight recent advances in our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of biofilm formation, the factors that regulate biofilm development and the role of quorum sensing and biofilm formation in the virulence of foodborne pathogens.

Currently, several novel methods have been successfully developed for controlling biofilms present in seafood. In this review, we also discuss the epidemiology of seafood-related diseases and the novel methods that could be used for future control of biofilm formation in seafood.

Microbial biofilms in seafood: A food-hygiene challenge

Food Microbiology, Volume 49, August 2015, Pages 41–55

Md. Furkanur Rahaman Mizan, Iqbal Kabir Jahid, Sang-Do Ha


43 humans sickened in 2013 chicken jerky pet treat Salmonella outbreak

Pet treats and pet food can be contaminated with Salmonella and other pathogens, though they are infrequently implicated as the source of human outbreaks. 2013, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services investigated a cluster of Salmonella Typhimurium infections associated with contaminated locally made pet treats.

Case-patients were interviewed with standardized questionnaires to assess food, animal, and social histories. Laboratory and environmental investigations were conducted, including testing of clinical specimens, implicated product, and environmental swabs. Between June and October 2013, a total of 43 ill persons were identified. Sixteen patients (37%) were hospitalized.

Among 43 case-patients interviewed, the proportion exposed to dogs (95%) and pet treats (69%) in the 7 days prior to illness was statistically higher than among participants in a U.S. population-based telephone survey (61%, p<0.0001 and 16%, p<0.0001, respectively). On further interview, 38 (88%) reported exposure to Brand X Chicken Jerky, the maker of Brand X chicken jerky, or the facility in which it was made. Product testing isolated the outbreak strain from four of four Brand X Chicken Jerky samples, including an unopened package purchased at retail, opened packages collected from patient households, and unpackaged jerky obtained from the jerky maker.

Chicken-Jerky-Dog-TreatsA site visit revealed inadequate processing of the chicken jerky, bare-hand contact with the finished product prior to packaging, and use of vacuum-sealed packaging, which may have enabled facultative anaerobic bacteria to proliferate. Seven (78%) of nine environmental swabs taken during the site visit also yielded the outbreak strain. Brand X Chicken Jerky was voluntarily recalled on September 9, 2013.

Consumers should be made aware of the potential for locally made products to be exempt from regulation and for animals and animal food to carry pathogens that cause human illness, and be educated to perform hand hygiene after handling pet food or treats.

Human Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Associated With Exposure to Locally Made Chicken Jerky Pet Treats, New Hampshire, 2013

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

Cavallo Steffany J., Daly Elizabeth R., Seiferth John, Nadeau Alisha M., Mahoney Jennifer, Finnigan Jayne, Wikoff Peter, Kiebler Craig A., and Simmons Latoya

‘Organic superfood’ O’Coconut recalled for Salmonella

I have no idea what an organic superfoods company or product is, but it probably shouldn’t have Salmonella.

Nutiva, an Organic Superfoods company, has initiated a voluntary product recall of the following O’Coconut™ products after being notified by supplier that samples of a raw material in this product have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. “We are choosing to voluntarily recall three of our O’Coconut items as a precautionary measure to provide the safest products for our customers,” states John Roulac, Nutiva’s CEO.


Macadamia Nuts recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination

Texas Star Nut and Food Co., Inc. of Boerne, Texas is voluntarily recalling Nature’s Eats Natural Macadamia Nuts, Lot Code #31435001, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella

Macadamia NutsNature’s Eats Natural Macadamia Nuts, Lot Code #31435001 was distributed only to HEB stores, in Texas. The product was sold between 12/30/2014 and 3/20/2015.

The recall was initiated as a result of a report received by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which detected Salmonella in a random sampling of our Nature’s Eats Natural Macadamia Nut product. The recall was as the result of a routine sampling program by the FDA which revealed that the finished products contained the bacteria.

No illnesses have been reported in relation to this product at this time.

The company has ceased the production and distribution of the product as the FDA and the company continues their investigation as to what caused the problem.