Gluten sensitivities (and Celiac disease) may be a result of a common virus

wheat-995055_1280

Gluten free.  It seems everything sold nowadays is gluten free.  Gluten free this, gluten free that.  It appears the “gluten free” movement has exploded on the scene in recent years and common, ordinary products will use this health related buzzword just to get a second glance from consumers.  You know it’s gone too far when you can go to your local Whole Foods and sitting in the aisle is gluten free bar soap.  Yeah… I just love the taste of this soap.  Thank God, its gluten free or else I’d be gassy all night.

I recall the first time I heard about gluten.  It was about ten years ago and my employer just hired a new recruit.  At the weekly meeting, pizza was being served.  I noticed the new hire wasn’t eating any pizza, so I told him not to be nervous and it was okay to take a few slices.  There was plenty enough to go around.  He proceeded to tell me, “I can’t eat pizza.  The gluten in the pizza gives me the winds.”  Curious, I asked him about this issue.  He informed me, “That his system has difficulty breaking down the gluten in wheat.”  Working in a hospital, I was aware of celiac disease but never heard about this form of gluten sensitivity before that day.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the villi in the stomach.  The villi are finger like projections that line the small intestine.  Their function is to create a large area for nutrient absorption.  If a person with celiac disease eats gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, or rye, their body mounts an all-out attack on the small intestine.  The body detects gluten as a dangerous pathogen and acts accordingly.  As you can imagine, if these villi get damaged vital nutrients cannot be absorbed into the body and malnutrition is a result.  Therefore, people have to adhere to a strict, gluten-free diet.  Although symptoms will subside within a few weeks, damage to the intestines may take up to several years to heal.  In the United States, this disease afflicts less than 1% of the population or about 2.5 million people of which, most are undiagnosed.

New research suggests a virus may be to blame when people are afflicted by celiac disease.  Even though celiac disease afflicts less than 1% of the population, it is estimated that 30% of Americans carry the gene that makes them more susceptible to developing celiac disease.  Without going into the complicated theories behind gene expression, that is a big discrepancy.

A team of doctors who were studying reovirus – a common, benign virus that infects children – think it may be the trigger for developing celiac disease.  Experiments on genetically engineered mice (who were predisposed to celiac disease) showed that when these mice were fed gluten and subsequently exposed to reovirus, they developed the same immunological response against gluten that humans do.  But how does this translate to humans?  These same researchers took blood samples on people who have celiac disease and they found these people have anywhere from two-to-five-times the levels of specific reovirus antibodies.  They theorized that these people were exposed to reovirus sometime in their past and when the timing was right, celiac disease developed when there was an exposure to gluten.

The preliminary results are promising, but there is more work to be done.  The researchers will now try to develop a causal link between reovirus and the beginning of celiac disease.  They want to study 1000’s of children over the next several years before any concrete conclusions can be disclosed.  If the findings are favorable, this could lead to a reovirus vaccine which would help people who are predisposed to developing celiac disease.

When I hear people who do not have celiac disease complain about gluten, I have to admit I roll my eyes.  However, after these findings I will be more sensitive to the difficulties these people experience when eating gluten.  Testing for reovirus antibodies should be a first step into getting a handle on this relatively unknown disorder.  If the causal link is found, the health and well-being of sufferers will finally be addressed.

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

Source

Image source:  https://pixabay.com/

Image source disclaimer:  Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos

 

 

Advertisements

Listeria bacteria can hide in the tissue of Romaine lettuce for 60 days

bacteria-1832824_1280

Every week, I like to write about topics that I am currently learning about in my Environmental Health Microbiology class.  Sometimes it is easier than others since topics for the blog need to be interesting and relevant.  This week, an entry into foodborne illness seems necessary.

When it comes to foodborne illness, there are (4) main sources that take a pathogen from farm to consumers.  These bullet points will explain further.

  • Farm (A hen’s reproductive organs are infected leading to infected eggs)
  • Processing/Distribution (Pathogens from the intestine of a cow can contaminate a final meat product)
  • Retail/Food Service (Poor handling/hygiene) Remember, Typhoid Mary?
  • Consumer (Cross contamination or improper cooking/storage temperatures)

Each source has its own check and balances and mostly, human contamination comes into play whenever there is an outbreak of a certain pathogen.  However, this week’s blog will highlight a newly discovered avenue in pathogenic contamination.

Researchers at Purdue University found out that Listeria monocytogenes can actually live in the tissue of romaine lettuce.  I guess Caesar Salads are off the chopping block for a while.

caesar-246818_1280

Luckily, L. monocytogenes is predominantly a mild bacterial infection that normally affects pregnant women, newborns, adults who are 65+, and the immunocompromised.  Even though Listeriosis is generally a mild infection for pregnant women, the unborn fetus could be inflicted with a severe disease, or even more traumatic a miscarriage.  Furthermore, adults 65+ and the immunocompromised could develop severe bloodstream infections, like sepsis or severe brain infections like meningitis or encephalitis.  Now the last two infections mentioned are serious threats and not to be taken lightly.  You might have seen commercials touting a bacterial meningitis vaccine for people over 50.  This is why this new discovery hits home for so many.  What starts off as something mild could turn deadly in a short amount of time.

Normally, post-harvest sanitation processes are enough to kill most foodborne pathogens.  However, L. monocytogenes can gain entry into the lettuce tissue in as little as 30 minutes using cracked seed coats, small tears in root tissue during germination, or just plain ordinary damaged plant tissue as a port of entry.

These bacteria can be killed by heat, but the reason it flourishes so well is that the products it infects are ready to eat and/or raw, like fruits (cantaloupes and apples) and vegetables (celery and sprouts), or deli meat and hot dogs.  In fact, a 2011 outbreak in contaminated cantaloupe was the 2nd most deadly foodborne bacterial outbreak in U.S. history with 33 deaths.  So much for it being a milder infection, right?

After a 2016 recall of contaminated pre-packaged salads, these researchers began to investigate the persistence of L. monocytogenes in romaine lettuce, since it is the fastest crop in terms of growth, export, and consumption.  They found that the bacteria can live up to 60 days or until the time of harvest.

Researchers are now focusing their attention on detection strategies of what may happen to the seeds and/or seedlings of romaine lettuce.  They want to find ways to strengthen pre-harvest control especially in the avenues of contamination.  Sanitizers only treat produce externally, so they are studying ways to minimize exposure of these pathogens in the soil, water, and seeds.  Hopefully, their research will lead to advancements that will prevent another deadly outbreak of Listeriosis.

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

Source

Image source:  https://pixabay.com/

Image source disclaimer:  Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos

 

In war-torn Gaza, water pollution behind health woes

war-1911177_1280

Water, along with sunlight, is one of the two main ingredients for life.  One without the other would render our planet lifeless, but with our Sun having roughly 5 billion years left of fusing hydrogen into helium, it’s safe to say water is the more important commodity at this moment in time.

pollution-1603644_1280

Water pollution can come in many forms.  It can be chemical or biological in origin.  Other parts of the world experience a much tougher time when it comes to gathering water due to pollution, salinity, or scarcity; therefore, it’s hard for us to understand the daily plight of people in places like war-torn Gaza.

Gaza, or the more formerly known Gaza-strip, is a small Palestinian country which borders the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, and Israel. Whether you agree or disagree with their religious ideology, you cannot deny the human suffering that has gone on in that part of the world.  Living in a country that has seen the brutalities of war on a daily basis, now having a burgeoning water crisis is something these people wish to avoid.

palestine-gaza-strip-in-2015-678981_1920

The population in Gaza is suffering from water pollution and the numbers inflicted are increasing every year.  Hospitals are seeing increases of almost 15% year over year of residents with chronic kidney issues, such as kidney stones and urinary tract infections.  Furthermore, lead and sulfur have been leaching into local water supplies from the remnants of ammunition fired during the war.  Agricultural runoff from pesticides is increasing the prevalence of cancer nationwide and fecal contamination from wastewater is infecting the nation’s children.  Doctors are seeing increases in childhood parasitic diseases, severe diarrhea, and malnutrition.

The water table is shrinking faster than it can be replenished. With three wars since 2008 and an unemployment rate hovering around 44 percent, the residents are turning more and more to self-sufficiency and when the water table drops, the sea water rushes in and increases the salinity.  This increased salinity strains outdated filtration plants and public water systems.  The most recent estimate suggests 97% of the water is unsafe to drink and the water may be undrinkable by 2020.

International aid is building a large desalination plant in Gaza.  In January, the largest desalination plant opened and is able to supply 75,000 people with safe water and that number will rise to 150,000 when the second phase is opened later in the year.  Additionally, other plants are slated to be built in the near future.  However, changing behavior surrounding water scarcity needs to change.  A public campaign to store rainwater and reuse water has started and is gaining traction.  Even with the desalination plants and the recycling of water, the water table needs to be replenished without being touched for this part of the world to meet its water needs for the foreseeable future.

The next time you go to the refrigerator to get a glass of water or walk to the convenience store to buy water, think about how good we have it here.  If you can relate to the ongoing humanitarian issues in Gaza, please donate to your favorite charity.

Source

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

Image source:  https://pixabay.com/

Image source disclaimer:  Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos

Salicylic acid promotes nasal mucosa colonization by Staphylococcus aureus

bacteria-808158_640

Salicylic acid, a common component in pain medication and anti-acne creams, has been discovered to enhance nasal mucosa colonies of Staphylococcus aureus.  We even eat trace amounts of salicylic acid in our daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.  Salicylic acid forms complexes with iron which is a key ingredient for bacterial growth.  As salicylic acid bonds with iron, the deficiency promotes the growth of biofilms of S. aureus.

You are probably asking, “What is the importance of biofilm?”  Biofilm is the bacteria’s way of forming a protective matrix around its colonies.  It produces a glue-like film which attaches to various materials, including human tissues.  As these biofilms grow, it creates an anchor site for additional microbial growth.  These biofilms are almost indestructible which makes treatment by antibiotics difficult to say the least.

S. aureus colonizes around 25% of the human population, so why aren’t more people coming down with various conditions caused by this bacterium?  The answer lies in our immune system.  Our immune system keeps the bacteria in check when the host is healthy and is able to provide the necessary nutrients to the bacteria.  The problems arise when salicylic acid deprives the bacteria of the iron it needs.  If iron cannot be metabolized in sufficient amounts by S. aureus, the bacteria go into defense mode and produce copious amounts of biofilm for survival.  This increased growth of biofilm allows the bacteria to survive for a longer period of time.

I hope you are following the road signs so far.  Increased biofilm growth while the host is healthy might be a minor concern.  However, if the host becomes ill is where things could get interesting.  Biofilm, which can be impervious to antibiotics, might increase the host’s susceptibility to the toxins of S. aureus.  In turn, this could be the beginning of a chronic illness which is difficult to treat.

In summation:  Vegetarians beware, let your pimples grow and like the saying goes, “No pain. No gain!”  Just kidding.  As with anything in life, moderation is key.  Continue with a healthy lifestyle and problems should not arise.  However, if you are in one of the three key demographics mentioned in the blog, please be aware.  Awareness is half the battle.

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

Source:  https://phys.org/news/2017-02-salicylic-acid-nasal-mucosa-colonization.html

Image source:  https://pixabay.com/

Image source disclaimer:  Images and Videos on Pixabay are released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos