Health Watch - Food Safety: Shellfish

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’ve been talking about preventing food-borne illnesses. Proper food handling can help prevent food poisoning, but researchers are also working to find ways to make food safer. This includes learning how bacteria affect cells in an infection.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are studying bacteria found in the ocean and in shellfish. Infections from these bacteria can be caused by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, including oysters. Bacteria also can cause infections when an open cut is exposed to ocean water. Dr. Kim Orth, a UT Southwestern molecular biologist, says the bacteria kill host cells by taking a group of atoms crucial for holding the cell together. Without these atoms, the cell membrane fails, the cell loses integrity, and it dies. This finding not only helps scientists understand how the bacteria cause illness, but also provides important information about how cells maintain structural integrity and how cells communicate with each other.      

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September 2010


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