NETHERLANDS – In a quest to decipher the relationship between food and extraintestinal infections, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in the Netherlands conducted an extensive investigation.

While acknowledging the possibility of a connection, the agency highlights the complexities of establishing a direct link between food and infections occurring outside the intestines, particularly in the urinary tract and bloodstream.

Extraintestinal infections, originating beyond the intestines, often involve the urinary tract and bloodstream. These infections may occur when bacteria from feces enter the urinary tract, prompting scientists to explore the role of food in such cases.

The RIVM delved into scientific literature in search of a definitive link between food and extraintestinal infections.

While indications were found, conclusive evidence proving food as a direct cause remained elusive.

Despite the potential connection, the agency emphasized the difficulty in demonstrating whether bacteria causing urinary tract infections originate from food.

Focus on E. coli and extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC)

E.coli, known for causing both gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections, was the primary pathogen associated with extraintestinal infections.

However, strains linked to urinary tract infections differed from those causing gastrointestinal issues.

The study particularly focused on extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), identified as a leading cause of urinary tract and bloodstream infections in the Netherlands.

Establishing a direct link between bacteria in food and urinary tract infections demands research involving strain matching and detailed epidemiological investigations. The variable incubation period of extraintestinal pathogens adds complexity to the task.

The study identified poultry meat as a potential source of ExPEC, though the evidence was indirect. Conversely, the role of eggs, raw milk, and fruits and vegetables was deemed minimal due to limited research.

Proposed solutions for further investigation

To enhance understanding and gather more evidence, the scientists proposed the establishment of a comprehensive database involving the sequencing and analysis of ExPEC strains from clinical isolates, farm animals, and food.

This approach could aid in monitoring clusters, conducting source attribution studies, and ultimately shedding light on the relationship between food and extraintestinal infections.

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