Foodborne Illnesses

Bacterial Causes of Foodborne Illnesses

Food borne Illnesses

Food borne illnesses may be attributed to several types of bacteria. This article covers Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter jejuni and Escherichia coli. Food borne illnesses are a serious health risk and can be fatal. Toxoplasmosis, for example, can cause a stillbirth in pregnant women.

Listeria monocytogenes

Although the origins of Listeria monocytogenes are unknown, it is a bacterium that causes a wide variety of food-borne illnesses. Listeria is found in water and soil, and can contaminate meat, fruits, and vegetables. It is also present in the guts of animals and may not be apparent, but Listeria can cause food-borne illnesses. Infected foods can include raw milk, uncooked meat, and poultry.

Symptoms of Listeriosis include fever, stiff neck, loss of balance, convulsions, and headache. In immunocompromised individuals, Listeriosis can lead to sepsis, bacteremia, and a wide range of organ system infections. Listeria infection can also lead to severe neurological complications and death. However, in most cases, symptoms of Listeriosis are mild.

Clostridium perfringens

The relationship between Clostridium perfringens, a common cause of foodborne illness, is well-known. It is a gram-positive, spore-forming anaerobic bacterium that normally lives in the intestines of humans. When foodborne illnesses result from this bacterium, the enterotoxin it produces in the intestines causes an infection. In addition to human illnesses, it also causes a range of animal diseases, including gangrene and wound infections.

This bacterium is responsible for outbreaks of food poisoning in the United States. While the exact number of infections and deaths caused by C. perfringens is not known, it is estimated that close to one million cases occur every year in the United States. The infection causes more than 438 hospitalizations and nearly twenty-five deaths each year in the U.S. The bacteria does not have an obvious physical appearance and can survive at room temperature and below.

Campylobacter jejuni

The bacteria that causes Campylobacter jejuni cause two million illnesses a year in the United States and 60 to 80 percent of the same cases in Europe. The bacteria is most common in chicken, where its contamination is particularly high, especially in the skin. In the United States, it is responsible for more than 100 deaths and 13,000 hospitalizations each year. However, it can infect anyone.

Although the exact mechanism of how this bacteria acquire nutrients is not yet known, it is flexible enough to permit the organism to survive in the environment before it enters the host. The bacterium cannot conserve energy through fermentation of carbohydrates, but has developed a novel L-fucose pathway. The differences between different strains of C. jejuni can be traced to the bacterial species’ differential use of amino acids and other nutrients.

Escherichia coli

E. coli O157:H7 is a type of bacteria that can cause food borne illness in humans. This bacteria can also be transferred to humans through contaminated water, cross-contamination during food preparation, and contaminated surfaces. Raw milk and spinach are particularly vulnerable to E. coli O157:H7 infection. These foods have a high risk of contamination, and people should not consume them.

A person with this food borne illness may experience diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, or decreased urine production. They may also experience pink color loss in the lower eyelids or cheeks. This disease usually clears up on its own after about a week. Although there is no cure for this ailment, there are several ways to treat it and prevent outbreaks. However, these illnesses can cause a great deal of suffering.


The food-borne disease Norovirus is one of the most common causes of illness in the United States. This virus usually affects people in areas with close quarters. In the United States, 19 to 21 million people become ill each year from norovirus. There are also 570 to 800 deaths caused by norovirus each year. The food-borne illness is highly contagious and is spread through contaminated food.

Staph. aureus

The pathogenic bacteria Staph. aureus are widespread, opportunistic, and versatile. They grow and survive in a variety of foods and environments and are capable of acquiring various genetic elements. This recombination process leads to the development of novel strains that exhibit different characteristics and can cause illness in humans. Currently, the exact mechanisms causing bacterial recombination are not known.

The CDC estimates that Staph. aureus causes around 240,000 cases of food borne illness each year. This bacterium is heat-stable, which means that it can multiply quickly even after being heated. In addition to this, food handling practices that involve the transfer of contaminated food may make these bacteria multiply quickly. Because heat-stable bacteria can cause food-borne illness, it is important to keep contaminated foods refrigerated and to avoid reheating.