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David Eyre, a clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford, U.K., in a presentation at the 2017 European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Vienna, said his research indicates that some cases of C. difficile are spread in the food chain.
“We don’t know much about how C. difficile might be spread in the food chain, but this research suggests it may be very widespread,” Dr. Eyre told the C Diff Foundation. “If that turns out to be the case, then we need to focus on some new preventative strategies such as vaccination in humans once this is possible, or we might need to look at our use of animal fertilizers on crops.”
Dr. Eyre noted that C. difficile infections continue to spread, even though hospitals have undertaken major infection control efforts. He and his colleagues’ research performed DNA fingerprinting on all the stool samples submitted on one day in the summer and one day in the winter of 2012/2013 from 482 hospitals in several countries to determine how widespread the 10 most common types of the infection were within the countries and between countries.
They found that some strains were clustered within a particular country, suggesting the contaminations were possibly spread within hospitals. However other strains were dispersed in several different countries, possibly implicating food as a source of transmission.
Previous research had also detected presence of C. difficile in foods. One report, published in 2012 in Food Technology, a publication of the Institute of Food Technologists, indicated that C. difficile has been found in retail beef, veal, pork and poultry, seafood and fish, and vegetables in North America. Some animals have the bacteria when they are slaughtered, which can lead to contamination during processing if proper safety precautions are not taken.
A whitepaper published in 2013 by Alex Rodriguez-Palacios, DVM, PhD, at Case Western Reserve, and colleagues reviewed evidence from molecular studies that found that susceptible people can be inadvertently exposed to C. difficile from foods.
Raw manure can introduce pathogens into a crop. The Food Safety Modernization Act requires that untreated biological soil amendments of animal origin, such as raw manure, must be applied in a manner that does not contact covered produce during application and minimizes the potential for contact with covered produce after application.