Ranks Growing Of People Left Debilitated By What They Ate
September 15, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.courant.com/news/health/hc-healthbadfood.artsep15,0,7086305.story
In the past
five years, Sarah Pierce has suffered repeated kidney failure, spent three
years on dialysis, had the plasma in her blood replaced twice and lost a
fiancé, friends and a job, all because of something she ate.
Pierce, now 30, was infected with a toxic strain of bacteria, E. coli O157:H7, that can be spread through undercooked meat or raw produce. Today, she has a healthy kidney donated by her brother, a full-time job and a husband. But the medicines she takes to keep her body from rejecting her replacement kidney carry a high risk of causing birth defects, so she has ruled out pregnancy.
"I would have liked to have had children," she said.
Pierce belongs to a small subset of people who develop long-term health problems from food poisoning. Their ranks are growing. Over the past decade, as medical experts have sought out the source of certain chronic illnesses, they have increasingly found links to episodes of food poisoning, sometimes many years beforehand, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Campylobacter, a bacterium associated
with raw chicken, is now recognized as a leading cause of the sudden acute
paralysis known as Guillain-Barre syndrome. Certain
strains of salmonella, the bacterium involved in the recent outbreak traced to
Mexican raw jalapeño and serrano peppers, can cause
arthritis. And E. coli O157:H7, a strain of an otherwise harmless bacterium
that lives in animal intestines, can release toxins that cause hemolytic uremic
syndrome, or HUS, a kidney disorder that in 25 percent to 50 percent of cases
leads to kidney failure, high blood pressure and other problems as much as 10
This list is just the beginning of the many health problems some people now attribute to food-borne infections.
"What the classical medical literature says and what we've seen is not the same," said Donna Rosenbaum, executive director of Safe Tables Our Priority, or STOP, a nonprofit that represents people who have suffered serious food-borne illness.
The CDC estimates there are 76 million cases of food-borne disease in the
Until recently, doctors were focused on the acute phase of food-borne infections. However, long-term health effects of food-borne infections are hard to study. It is tough to prove a link between some of these illnesses and later chronic conditions such as arthritis. To get around the last of these problems, STOP is setting up a national registry of victims of food-borne disease who would be willing to participate in longitudinal studies. The registry could help researchers determine, for instance, how frequently food-borne infection leads to chronic health problems and what role factors such as genetics play in who develops them.
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