Infected food, water increase health risks

  • campylobacter threat

Sep 13, 2018-

Campylobacter, one of the four key global causes of diarrhoeal disease and the most common bacterial cause of human gastroenteritis in the world, has now been traced even in monkeys at Pashupati and Swayambhunath in Kathmandu.

An ongoing cross-sectional study by the Centre for Molecular Dynamics Nepal (CMDN)—to detect the cause of diarrhoeal outbreak—has discovered campylobacter to be the main cause of this health hazard in monkeys at both sites.

Researchers collected 110 fresh macaque stool samples—55 from each site—and used the DNA-based molecular technology called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to identify the bacteria. Campylobacter was detected in 63 of the 110 samples.

Campylobacter is a spiral-shaped zoonotic pathogen which can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa, said Manisha Bista, disease surveillance officer at the CMDN.

The bacterium lives naturally in the guts of poultry and cattle-with no effect on them. However, when it enters the human body it causes debilitating diarrhoea and severe abdominal cramping.

“The bacteria can easily transmit to the public if the campylobacter found in monkey stool contaminates our food and water sources,” said Bista, who is also involved in the study.

According to her, the CMDN is investigating further to pinpoint the source of this incidence of campylobacter in monkeys.

Campylobacter species are prevalent in humans and other food animals like sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, pigs and also among dogs, cats and non-human primates and can transmit easily within and outside species.

Dr Prativa Pandey, medical director at CIWEC Hospital, says campylobacter is transferred to humans mostly through undercooked meat, especially chicken, and also contaminated water and milk.

Besides diarrhea, campylobacter can also cause other health complications like arthritis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome—tingling and weakness starting in feet and legs, heart inflammation, irritable food bowl and fever, among others.

“In recent years, campylobacter has become the number one bacteria behind food- and water-borne diseases in the country,” Dr Pandey observed. A separate study, which Dr Pandey was part of, had revealed that diarrhea was the most common illness among travellers and expatriates in Nepal. Campylobacter was detected in 17 percent of diarrhea cases among such travellers.

“Even water running through our taps is contaminated with drainage. Hygiene and sanitation has not improved for years now which make us more vulnerable to campylobacter attack. It could be a major public health threat,” said Dr Pandey.

In Nepal, we do not have the practice of screening diarrheal patients for campylobacter, which shows that we underestimate its prevalence and threat, according to Bista.

“Its presence in monkeys living in close proximity to humans, poultry and other domestic animals species could indicate that it is present in other animals or they are at risk of infection if proper preventive measures are not taken in time,”researcher Bista warned.

Published: 13-09-2018 07:31

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