SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have discovered “hypervirulent" Salmonella bacteria that are up to 100 times more capable of causing disease in humans and livestock according to a paper published in the journal PLoS Pathogens. The findings may help further mitigation efforts that are estimated at $14.6 billion annually in the United States.
Previous strategies to find the more dangerous bugs were unsuccessful since they behave like a "Trojan Horse"—exposing their weapons only when causing disease—but looking much like their less-virulent cousins in the environment. The discovery will allow scientists to develop methods to discriminate them from their less-virulent cousins.
According to the researchers, the emergence of more powerful strains could eventually overtax the current public health system, which regularly deals with outbreaks from tainted food.
Currently, health officials are dealing with a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Bareilly linked to yellowfin tuna that has sickened 116 people in 20 states this month. The yellowfin tuna was distributed to restaurants and grocery stores that make sushi, sushi, sashimi, ceviche or similar dishes. The product is not available for sale to individual consumers. Many of the people who became ill reported eating raw tuna in sushi as “spicy tuna."
"Now that we have identified the problem and potential solutions, we just need to get to work," said lead author Douglas Heithoff.