Scientists are expanding their knowledge of the health risks of Arcobacter

A study has added evidence that Arcobacter is present in food products, but the significance of the findings is still unclear.

Several species of Arcobacter are emerging as foodborne pathogens and can cause gastrointestinal disease. Tracking the source of Arcobacter infection and routes of transmission is one step in assessing the risk associated with these pathogens.

Contaminated drinking water or consumption of uncooked and raw food seems to be the main source of Arcobacter spread, he said International Journal of Food Microbiology.

The amount or rate of infection needed to make people sick is not clear and the incidence appears to be low, possibly because incidents are not routinely investigated. Research on pathogens has been carried out for at least 20 years.

A total of 220 samples were analyzed and Arcobacter was found in 49. Arcobacter buzzleri is the most common and is usually associated with human disease, but other species such as Arcobacter cryophilus have been found.

Samples including cockle, squid, shrimp, quail, rabbit and turkey meat, fresh cheese, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce and carrot were purchased from various retail shops and supermarkets in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain from May to November 2015.

Sea and carrot finds
Arcobacter is mostly found in seafood and turkey meat. Foods of animal and vegetable origin showed low levels of contamination.

The bacteria have genes that allow them to infect humans, according to Irati Martínez-Malaxtsebarria, a researcher at the University of the Basque Country.

“All salads that have tested positive have been prepackaged. That makes you think a bit because often when we buy processed foods we don’t pay attention to their cleanliness level. We have also found a strain in carrot that has never been identified before and has virulence genes,” she said.

Because baby squid was a major source of Arcobacter, eating these products raw could be a significant source of infection, researchers said.

It was also found in a slice of fresh cheese, but scientists said it was probably due to cross-contamination.

Martinez said that’s when the presence of Arcobacter species was first reported in Burgos cheese and carrots.

“We also observed seafood, especially squid, as an important source of Arcobacter. These findings have food safety implications to consider, since Burgos cheese is a ready-to-eat product and carrots and seafood are usually only eaten lightly cooked or raw,” he said.

Future studies on the survival and growth of Arcobacter on products, especially ready-to-eat products, will help evaluate the implications of the findings for food safety.

The results highlight the potential role of food products in Arcobacter transmission, the pathogenic potential of different species, and the ability of many to survive and grow at different food contact surfaces. All but one harborvirus-associated gene and 19 isolates were able to form biofilms at the various locations tested.

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