Public release date: 24-Aug-2009
Sherri McGinnis González
University of Illinois at Chicago
USDA grant to educate AIDS
patients about food safety
of Article: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-08/uoia-ugt082409.php
Researchers at the
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health have received a
grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to educate AIDS patients on
The three-year, $600,000
award will be used to develop a better way to disseminate information to
AIDS patients who are at high risk of developing infections from the foods
Nearly half a million
people in the United States are living with AIDS, and the number is
AIDS patients whose
immune systems have been severely suppressed by the HIV virus to a T-cell
count below 200 cells per microliter are at risk of developing
life-threatening infections from food-borne illnesses.
In addition to their
compromised immune systems, people with AIDS may have low stomach acid,
which is the first barrier against germs, said Dr. Mark Dworkin, UIC associate
professor of epidemiology and principal investigator of the study. Stomach
acid normally kills most of the germs that enter the body through the
mouth. For example, such patients can become infected with salmonella
bacteria from eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are not washed
Dworkin said most people
with AIDS are probably not aware that food safety recommendations for them
may include heating lunch meat. Listeria, a foodborne pathogen that has
been attributed to eating lunch meat and soft cheeses, can cause meningitis
and sepsis in AIDS patients.
Other risks include:
- Toxoplasmosis, a pathogen
transmitted by ingesting raw or partly cooked meat, which can cause
- Cryptosporidiosis, spread
through contaminated water and beverages, which causes severe diarrhea
that lasts for weeks or months.
- Mycobacterium avium complex
(known as MAC), which can cause bacteremia, anemia, fatigue and
The researchers will
interview 300 AIDS patients in Chicago, New Orleans and Bayamón, Puerto
Rico, to determine the biggest knowledge gaps in food safety.
"During the first
wave of interviews, we'll ask questions about behavior and risk," said
Dworkin. "Do they eat a lot of lunch meat? Do they eat pâté? Do they
cook their own food? Do they go out to eat frequently?"
gathered from those interviews, the researchers will create an entertaining
and educational comic book that has the theme of a menu. The book will be
disseminated at AIDS clinics in the three cities. Researchers will return a
month later to assess patients' knowledge of food safety issues.
Researchers will also
survey health care providers in the three cities to determine if they have
food safety educational material for AIDS patients and to raise awareness
about the new evidenced-based intervention.
disease surveillance does not take AIDS into account. It is unknown among
the various food-borne outbreaks how many of these illnesses are occurring
in AIDS patients.
Dworkin said the greatest
risk for disease from food-borne pathogens is likely among the newly
diagnosed AIDS patients who are not yet receiving anti-retroviral therapy;
those who have resistant virus; and those who have other difficulties with
their HIV medication and stay in the low AIDS range.
Dworkin has received two
previous grants totaling $1.5 million from the USDA to create
evidence-based educational materials for restaurant food handlers in
Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.