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Source: University of Guelph

OVC Researchers Find Bacterium in Meat

October 16, 2006

The University
of Guelph researchers who earlier this month found a dangerous bacterium in
food animals now have evidence that Clostridium difficile is in ground and
processed meats sold in Canada.

Preliminary findings are being presented today in France at the World
Buiatrics Congress by Alex Rodriguez-Palacios, a clinical studies D.V.Sc.
student at Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College.

But Guelph clinical studies professor Scott Weese, one of the study’s
authors, is once again cautioning people against drawing premature

"I want to reiterate that it’s too soon to conclude that the presence of the
bacterium in meat automatically means people can become infected and develop
C. difficile-associated disease through eating meat," he said. "Finding this
bacterium in meat is an important step in trying to determine whether C.
difficile is a food-borne pathogen, but much more work is required to see
whether there is any real risk."

About 18 per cent of meat tested in Ontario contained the bacterium. A
separate independent study by researchers at the University of Arizona found
C. difficile in about 30 per cent of meat they tested. Similar research is
also being done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Food Safety and
Inspection Services and National Institutes of Health.

Although the U.S. researchers found the human epidemic strain, it was not
found in Ontario samples. But the majority of strains found in Ontario meat
samples can cause disease in people.

C. difficile is recognized as the major cause of colitis (inflammation of
the colon) and diarrhea. The bacterium is primarily acquired in hospitals
and chronic-care facilities following antibiotic therapy covering a wide
variety of bacteria, and is the most frequent cause of outbreaks of diarrhea
in hospitalized patients. It has caused severe hospital outbreaks in Quebec
and Great Britain, and in the United States alone, it causes about three
million cases a year.

Earlier this month, Weese, who specializes in diseases that pass between
animals and humans, his OVC colleague Henry Staempfli and Rodriguez-Palacios
found the bacterium in the feces of about 11 per cent of dairy calves they
tested in Ontario.

They found that the cattle strains were "indistinguishable" from those that
have infected humans. Weese said there could be several explanations for
this. The strains may be evolving in parallel in different species, for
example, or there may be regular movement of various types of the bacterium
among different species. "Further study is needed to evaluate these
possibilities," he said. Their study will be published in an upcoming issue
of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Their follow-up research looked at ground beef and ground veal that was
purchased randomly from grocery stores in Guelph and tested over a period of
several months. Rodriguez-Palacios is presenting preliminary findings today
in France, and the full study is expected to be published in upcoming
months. Weese said they plan to expand the study to include other provinces.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona
Hunt, 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.



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