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  • Credit Card Records Trace E. coli outbreak

    03/23/2009

    An outbreak of shiga toxin-producing E. coli in Danish children was traced back to beef sausages using an unusual epidemiological tool: credit card receipts. The case is described in the April 15, 2009 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.

    Between February and May of 2007, Danish officials identified 20 genetically related cases of E. coli infection. All cases were relatively mild, and the patients recovered. Interviews with the parents of the sick children didn’t turn up any likely food suspects, so investigators had to try something different. Armed with the parents’ credit card information and a list of supermarkets at which they had shopped, the authors asked the grocery stores to search their central computers for a list of all items purchased by the affected families.

    Complete lists of items purchased were obtained for seven families, five of which had purchased a particular brand of fermented, organic beef sausage. A sixth family was linked to the sausage through shopping records from the kindergarten their two affected children attended. Sausages recovered from unopened packages tested positive for the outbreak strain, STEC O26.

    The authors say the source of the outbreak would most likely never have been found without credit card and supermarket database information. This is also the first time the outbreak source of the less common E. coli strain O26 has been identified. If diagnostic efforts and quality control programs in food production are focused only on detecting the more common STEC O157 strain, the authors caution, more outbreaks and illnesses are possible.

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  • Clinical Infectious Diseases is a leading journal in the field of infectious disease with a broad international readership. The journal publishes articles on a variety of subjects of interest to practitioners and researchers. Topics range from clinical descriptions of infections, public health, microbiology, and immunology to the prevention of infection, the evaluation of current and novel treatments, and the promotion of optimal practices for diagnosis and treatment. The journal publishes original research, editorial commentaries, review articles, and practice guidelines and is among the most highly cited journals in the field of infectious diseases. Clinical Infectious Diseases is an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Based in Arlington, Va., IDSA is a professional society representing more than 9,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases. For more information, visit www.idsociety.org.
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