Food Poisoning Caused by Soil Borne Clostridium perfringens

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Saira Naureen & Prof. Dr. Masood Rabbani
In ancient times it was believed by the people that witches chanting are necessary to cause an evil happening but now a day’s only carelessness in handling of prepared food is enough to cause a malevolence event. Slapdash kitchen habits, lack of knowledge of what causes food borne illness, its spread and methods of its prevention leads to outbreaks of very serious conditions like food poisoning caused by a bacteria named Clostridium perfringens. Clostridium perfringens food poisoning is a major problem faced by food service industry since most of the outbreaks are associated with mass feeding operations. This type of food poisoning is a threat to the public health as number of outbreaks of clostridial food poisoning is increasing every year in both the developing countries as well as developed countries. Foods most often involved in outbreaks of C. perfringens food poisoning are usually meat or poultry that have been cooked and held for some time before serving. Outbreaks more often occur after large Banquets, at restaurants, cafeterias, hostel mess, at schools or hospitals where large amounts of meat, poultry, and their gravies are prepared. Irrespective of this it is highly possible to develop home kitchen conditions that will cause an outbreak and in reality this has happened many times. Symptoms of the disease are abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and rarely fever. The symptoms usually appear 4 to 22 hours after eating and may persist for 1 to 5 days. Clostridium perfringens grows anaerobically, that is, it grows best when there is no air or free oxygen present in its environment. The organisms are rod-shaped bacteria and have the ability to form spores. In the spore form, they are more difficult to destroy than when in the vegetative or growing form. These organisms are present almost everywhere, but chief sources are: soil, man or animal intestinal tracts, fecal material, and sewage. Because they are found everywhere, it is difficult to keep them out of the food supply. Vegetative C. perfringens cells in food are destroyed by the heat of a thorough cooking, but heat-resistant spore forms of the organism are not. Thus, we cannot rely on cooking food to destroy these bacteria. The three principles related to the control of food-borne disease are: 1. limit or prevent contamination of the food by the microorganism 2. destroy the microorganism by some treatment of the food 3. prevent or inhibit the growth of the microorganism As soil is an important reservoir of C. perfringen and an important source of transmission of this pathogen from animals to humans, a cross sectional study was designed to find out its distribution and prevalence in the soil of Punjab province of Pakistan. Nine districts of Punjab including Attock, Chakwal, Sahiwal, DG Khan, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Faisalabad and Lahor were targeted for testing of soil for C. perfringens. Soil samples from 10% of the total villages of these districts were taken and tested through a sensitive and specific technique, Real Time PCR, for presence or absence of this pathogen in soil. Results showed that pathogen was highly distributed in all the districts of Punjab and prevalent in all the districts of Punjab. Highest prevalence was found in district Chakwal, followed by Attock and DG Khan. The prevalence was significantly affected by various physical and chemical risk factors. On the basis of study it is recommended that animal farms should be constructed in those areas where soil is found negative for C. perfringens to avoid transmission of the pathogen through animals to humans. Moreover farms should be constructed away from animal market and water source and animals should not be kept in dense human population.

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