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Chilled-out animals: a lower risk for food poisoning

Press release issued: 7 July 2009

Food poisoning bacteria become more invasive in animals that are stressed, according to new research from the University of Bristol in collaboration with the UK poultry industry. The results will be presented at the Society for Applied Microbiology summer conference in Manchester tomorrow [8 July].

Food poisoning bacteria become more invasive in animals that are stressed, according to new research from the University of Bristol in collaboration with the UK poultry industry. The results will be presented at the Society for Applied Microbiology summer conference in Manchester tomorrow [8 July].

Led by Professor Tom Humphrey from the University’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, the research examined the behaviour of Campylobacter in chickens, of which there are approximately 400,000 cases of Campylobacter food poisoning in the UK each year.

Improperly cooked poultry is an internationally important infection vehicle, particularly because this organism can be found in chicken muscle. Studies on bacteria like Campylobacter are traditionally carried out in conditions which may not reflect the production environment. Research in many countries has shown that after transport, levels of bacteria like Campylobacter are higher in the gut of food animals than on the farm. Work at Bristol has demonstrated that this may be associated with the release of the stress hormone noradrenalin. This hormone makes Campylobacter grow more quickly, become highly motile and invasive, leading to an increase in its ability to cause disease - its virulence.

A further finding in the studies at Bristol is that Campylobacter can interact with other organisms in the gut of food animals. When this happens it can become even more infective. The results of this study provide vital information to enable the control of infection in the production environment, making chicken safer and decreasing cases of food poisoning.

Professor Humphrey said: “The UK poultry industry is working hard to control Campylobacter. It is essential that this effort is supported by UK scientists and that research involves industry and is relevant to commercial production.”

Professor Humphrey will be presenting his work at 14.00 BST on Wednesday 8 July 2009 at the Geoffrey Manton Building of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Further information

The Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) is the voice of applied microbiology within the UK. They are the oldest UK microbiology society with members worldwide. SfAM works in partnership with sister organisations and microbiological bodies such as FEMS (The European Federation of Microbiological Societies) and the Biosciences Federation to ensure that microbiology and microbiologists are able to exert influence on policy-makers across the world.
Please contact Caroline Clancy for further information.