EHEC outbreak: BfR confirms contamination of sprouts with O104:H4

Scientists of the National Reference Laboratory for Escherichia coli at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) have confirmed the results of the Land authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia: Raw sprouts contaminated with EHEC, which originated from the household of EHEC patients in North Rhine-Westphalia, were contaminated with the EHEC strain O104:H4. "This laboratory diagnostics result is another link in the chain of evidence suggesting that raw sprouts have to be considered as an essential source for the EHEC infections of the last weeks and confirms the epidemiological findings", said BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. Already on 10 June 2011 the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the Robert Koch Institute and the Federal Agency for Consumer Protection and Food Safety had identified, on the basis of new epidemiological investigations, sprouts from a horticultural farm in Lower Saxony as the source for the EHEC outbreak and changed the recommendations on consumption accordingly.

The scientists at the National Reference Laboratory of BfR have analysed the samples transmitted by the Chemical and Veterinary-Medical Investigation Office Rhein-Ruhr-Wupper with different serological and molecular methods. In a real-time PCR of the single colonies cultivated from the sample the strain was identified as O104, fliC H4, stx2, aggR and was identical to the EHEC O104:H4 strains isolated from patients.

Although the samples originated from an open sprout packaging from a household in which patients infected with EHEC lived, it can be assumed with a very high probability that the EHEC outbreak with severe disorders and fatalities is attributable, more particularly to the consumption of raw sprouts. Epidemiological investigations at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin had already shown that the EHEC outbreak of the patients concerned was closely linked to the consumption of raw sprouts from a horticultural farm in Lower Saxony (BfR Press Release 16/2011).

About BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. BfR engages in own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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