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Stress in Animals Raises Risk of Food Poisoning

by 5m Editor
8 July 2009, at 9:02am

UK - Food poisoning bacteria become more invasive in animals that are stressed, scientists at the Society for Applied Microbiology summer conference in Manchester will hear today (Wednesday).

Professor Tom Humphrey, from the University of Bristol, is presenting results from a study examining the behaviour of Campylobacter in chickens, which was carried out in collaboration with the UK poultry industry.

There are approximately 400,000 cases of Campylobacter food poisoning in the UK each year and improperly cooked poultry is an internationally important infection vehicle, particularly because this organism can be found in chicken muscle.

Studies on bacteria like Campylobacter are traditionally carried out in conditions which may not reflect the production environment. Research in many countries has shown that after transport, levels of bacteria like Campylobacter are higher in the gut of food animals than on the farm.

Work at Bristol has demonstrated that this may be associated with the release of the stress hormone noradrenalin.

This hormone makes Campylobacter grow more quickly, become highly motile and invasive, leading to an increase in its ability to cause disease - its virulence.

A further finding in the studies at Bristol is that Campylobacter can interact with other organisms in the gut of food animals. When this happens it can become even more infective.

The results of this study provide vital information to enable the control of infection in the production environment, making chicken safer and decreasing cases of food poisoning.

Professor Humphrey said: "The UK poultry industry is working hard to control Campylobacter. It is essential that this effort is supported by UK scientists and that research involves industry and is relevant to commercial production."

Professor Humphrey will be presenting his work on Wednesday 8 July 2009 at the Geoffrey Manton Building of Manchester Metropolitan University.