Because serving certain foods to old folks is dumb: Listeria infections frequently reported among the EU elderly

European experts have noted an increasing trend of listeriosis since 2008, but they highlight that the number of affected people stabilised from 2014 to 2015. Infections were mostly reported in people over 64 years of age. These are some of the findings of the latest annual report by EFSA and ECDC on zoonotic diseases, which also includes the latest trends on salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, and foodborne outbreaks in the European Union.

listeria4Listeriosis affected about 2,200 people in 2015, causing 270 deaths – the highest number ever reported in the EU. The proportion of cases in the over 64 age group steadily increased from 56% in 2008 to 64% in 2015. Additionally, in this period, the number of reported cases and their proportion has almost doubled in those over 84 years.

“It is concerning that there continues to be an increasing trend of Listeria cases which mostly occur in the elderly population. ECDC is working together with Member States to enhance surveillance for food- and waterborne diseases, starting with Listeria, as earlier detection of relevant clusters and outbreaks can help prevent further cases,” said Mike Catchpole, Chief Scientist at ECDC. “This is a public health threat that can and needs to be addressed”, he added.

Dr. Marta Hugas, Head of Biological Hazards and Contaminants at EFSA, said: “Listeria seldom exceeded the legal safety limits in ready-to-eat foods, the most common foodborne source of human infections. However, it is important that consumers follow manufacturers’ storage instructions and the guidelines given by national authorities on the consumption of foods.”

In 2015, there were 229,213 reported cases of campylobacteriosis. This disease remains the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU, showing an upward trend since 2008. Campylobacter is mostly found in chickens and chicken meat.

The number of cases of salmonellosis, the second most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU, increased slightly – from 92,007 in 2014 to 94,625 in 2015. The increase observed in the past two years is partly due to improvements in surveillance and better diagnostic methods. However, the long-term trend is still declining and most Member States met their Salmonella reduction targets for poultry populations.

Salmonella is mainly found in meat (poultry) intended to be cooked before consumption.

Foodborne pathogen typing: Getting it right, it’s sorta important

In 2012, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) initiated external quality assessment (EQA) schemes for molecular typing including the National Public Health Reference Laboratories in Europe.

get-it-rightThe overall aim for these EQA schemes was to enhance the European surveillance of food-borne pathogens by evaluating and improving the quality and comparability of molecular typing. The EQAs were organised by Statens Serum Institut (SSI) and included Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica, verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) and Listeria monocytogenes. Inter-laboratory comparable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) images were obtained from 10 of 17 of the participating laboratories for Listeria, 15 of 25 for Salmonella, but only nine of 20 for VTEC. Most problems were related to PFGE running conditions and/or incorrect use of image acquisition. Analysis of the gels was done in good accordance with the provided guidelines. Furthermore, we assessed the multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) scheme for S. Typhimurium. Of 15 laboratories, nine submitted correct results for all analysed strains, and four had difficulties with one strain only. In conclusion, both PFGE and MLVA are prone to variation in quality, and there is therefore a continuous need for standardisation and validation of laboratory performance for molecular typing methods of food-borne pathogens in the human public health sector.

Evaluation of molecular typing of foodborne pathogens in European reference laboratories from 2012 To 2013

Eurosurveillance, Volume 21, Issue 50, 15 December 2016

S Schjørring, T Niskanen, M Torpdahl, JT Björkman, EM Nielsen

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=22673

Better surveillance or worserer food? Increasing foodborne infections in the EU in 2014

Human cases of campylobacteriosis and listeriosis continued to rise in the EU in 2014, showing an increasing trend since 2008.

bureaucrat.pink.flyod“It is worrying that Campylobacter and Listeria infections are still rising in the European Union,” Mike Catchpole, Chief Scientist at ECDC said, “this situation highlights the importance of enhancing listeriosis surveillance through molecular typing, work currently developed by ECDC and EFSA, and strengthening the EU-wide Campylobacter control measures at EU-level”.

There were 2,161 confirmed cases of Listeriosis infections in 2014, a rise of 16% compared with 2013. Although the number of cases are relatively low, the rise of reported listeriosis cases is of particular concern as the surveillance of these infections is focused on severe forms of the disease, with higher death rates than for other foodborne diseases, particularly among the elderly, and patients with a weak immune system.

Campylobacteriosis remains the most commonly reported food-borne disease in the EU and has been so since 2005. The number of confirmed cases in the EU in 2014 was 236,851, an increase of 10%, compared with 2013. This increase can partly be explained by improvements in the surveillance system and/or improved diagnostics for campylobacteriosis in several Member States. In food, Campylobacter was mostly found in chicken meat.

Confirmed cases of salmonellosis, the second most commonly reported food-borne disease in the EU, increased slightly for the first time over the period 2008–2014, due to changes in the number of Member States reporting. However, there has been a statistically significant downward trend of salmonellosis in the seven-year period of 2008–2014. This is mainly due to the successful Salmonella control programmes put in place for poultry by EU Member States and the European Commission.