Trace of the EHEC infections leads to Egypt

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Trace of the mutated EHEC bacteria leads to Egypt

The search for the origin of the EHEC epidemic leads to Egypt, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Fenugreek seeds are said to have brought the new, particularly aggressive EHEC bacterial strain to Germany and France. The now closed organic farm in Bienenbüttel is said to have used the contaminated seeds for sprout breeding.

The pathogen strain O104: H4, which is responsible for the current EHEC infection wave in Germany, may have been introduced from Egypt via contaminated fenugreek seeds. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said that the link between the EHEC epidemic in Germany and the increased EHEC infections in Bordeaux, France, is likely to be via the fenugreek seeds from Egypt.

Marriage pathogen with fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt? Together with experts from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma has launched a comprehensive investigation into the causes of the current EHEC epidemic. Since sprouts in Germany were clearly identified as transmitters of the new, particularly dangerous EHEC pathogens, the European authorities concentrated their search for possible connections between the diseases in Germany and France on the distribution channels of the corresponding products. Both national and international distribution channels were reviewed, with fenugreek seeds from Egypt identified as "the most likely link between the cases in France and the previous outbreak in Germany," EFSA said. It is therefore suspected that the new pathogens of the EHEC strain O104: H4, which cause severe EHEC symptoms and the so-called hemolytic-uremic syndrome, were imported from North Africa.

Task force to investigate the EHEC epidemic
According to the European authorities, there are still uncertainties regarding the Egyptian fenugreek seeds. However, there are some indications that "in particular the batch from 2009 is related to the outbreak in France" and the batch from 2010 could be responsible for the outbreak in Germany, the ESFA said. However, according to the experts from the European authorities, further studies of the distribution channels are necessary to establish a clear connection. For this purpose, EFSA has launched a special Task Force is, which is supported by experts from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and experts from France, Germany, Italy and Great Britain. The World Health Organization (WHO) is also involved in the task force, which has now linked the EHEC epidemic to the potentially contaminated Egyptian goat seeds.

Further EHEC infections are expected
If the suspicion is confirmed that the new, particularly aggressive intestinal germs with fenugreek seeds have reached Europe from Egypt, further EHEC infections within and outside the European Union would be expected, the ESFA said. Since the seeds are also often sold as mixtures for sprout breeding, the EHEC pathogens can be transferred from the fenugreek seeds to other products in packaging processes, the authorities warn. Therefore, "any recommendation to consumers should now refer to all seeds and raw sprouts," said ESFA. In general, the experts currently advise you not to take sprouts “for your own consumption” and to always cook them sufficiently before eating them.

Almost 4,000 EHEC infections in Germany
While the European authorities have continued to look for the causes of the current EHEC epidemic, the number of new infections in this country has been falling for days. The national health authorities therefore assume that the peak of the infection wave has passed. Since the outbreak of the epidemic in May, almost 4,000 people in this country have contracted EHEC infection or haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), 47 people have died as a result of the infection, reports the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The outbreak in France, however, was largely concentrated in the Bordeaux area, where between June 24 and 28, fifteen people with severe EHEC symptoms such as bloody diarrhea or HUS needed medical attention. In three French patients, the new, particularly aggressive strain O104: H4 has been clearly proven, which is also responsible for the current EHEC epidemic in Germany. (fp)

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