Health Watch — Bacteria: Shellfish Pathogens

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While we need food to keep us alive, sometimes there are things that come with food that aren’t so good for us. This week on Health Watch, we’ll talk about food-borne bacteria and fighting bacterial infections. One illness is caused by a bacterium often found in shellfish. This bacterium causes symptoms similar to cholera, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and high fever, and it’s most dangerous to those with liver problems or a weakened immune system.

Dr. Kim Orth, a microbiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, is studying this bacterium, called V para. She’s found that it co-opts a normal process the body uses under stress to “recycle” weakened cells, killing cells so that it can then scavenge the remains and then multiply. The conditions for this bacterium are becoming more favorable as oceans rise, and although the infection is more common in Asia, outbreaks are occurring in the U.S. Properly cooking shellfish kills the bacteria.


October 2008

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