C. diff Found in MeatsNov 19, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP MSNBC.com is reporting that a recent study has revealed that the intestinal germ Clostridium difficile—C. diff—is present in 40 percent of all grocery meats.
C. diff tends to appear in people on antibiotics and occurs when spores enter the body orally and reach the gastrointestinal tract. When C. diff bacteria overgrows in the colon, or large intestine, severe diarrhea—often accompanied by colitis, or intestinal inflammation—can set in. C. diff can be dangerous and is often seen in hospitals and hospital-like settings. Standard cleansers do not eliminate C. diff and, now, traditional antibiotic treatments no longer seem to be working, especially in repeat cases.
Over “40 percent of packaged meats sampled from three Arizona chain stores tested positive for” C. diff, said the new study of 2006 data collected by a University of Arizona scientist, said MSNBC.com. Of the samples collected, “nearly 30 percent of the contaminated samples … were identical or closely related to a super-toxic strain of C. diff,” which is pointing to the possibility that C. diff infections “may be transmitted through food,” reports MSNBC.com. “These data suggest that domestic animals … may be source of C. difficile …” said J. Glenn Songer, a professor of veterinary science at the Tucson school and who spoke with MSNBC.com. Songer’s work is under review by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted MSNBC.com.
Songer looked at a wide array of meats sold in grocery stores nationwide and found that contamination ranged from 41 percent (pork), 44 percent (turkey), 50 percent (ground beef), and over 62 percent (braunschweiger, a type of liverwurst), said MSNBC.com. Of the products contaminated with C. diff, the vast majority—three-quarters—were of toxinotype V, noted the MSNBC.com report, which explained this is a type that has been found in pigs and calves and, “increasingly,” said Songer, in humans. Last year, a CDC journal piece reported on Canadian researchers who discovered C. diff in 12—20 percent—of 60 retail meat samples collected in 2005 and suggested the possibility that processed meats—because the contain a variety of meats and are handled more—may be likelier to be contaminated, said MSNBC.com.
As with a number of other germs whose contaminations and antibiotic resistance is on the rise, antibiotic overuse is being seen, more and more, to blame, causing situations in which first-line, more traditional treatments are ineffective, noted the piece, which pointed out that 80 percent—and this number is rising—of C. diff infections in hospital or health care settings. This means, said MSNBC.com, “about 13 in every 1,000 hospital patients is infected or colonized with the bacteria, a rate between 6.5 and 20 times higher than previously estimated,” based on last week’s figures as released by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). The study also noted that these infections are costing—on average—about $32 million and are resulting in over 300 deaths, said MSNBC.com.
Now, a new, more virulent strain called NAP1, has emerged that produces “about 20 times the toxins of ordinary strains” and can “cause severe, repeated diarrhea that resists all but the most powerful drugs” and can “destroy the colon and lead to blood poisoning and death,” said MSNBC.com. Also, some C. diff cases are emerging that do not seem to be originating in hospital settings, further confounding experts, the piece indicated.