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Is there a way to keep E. coli out of romaine lettuce?

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Somewhere in Canada, 24 people have gone through a frightening experience caused by the simple act of eating romaine lettuce

It happened sometime in late October or early November, when they unknowingly ingested a dangerous pathogen — E. coli O157:H7 — hiding in the lettuce leaves.

Days later they began to feel symptoms, possibly a headache or a mild fever. They could have developed nausea, abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. They would have been so distressed that they went to their doctor or an emergency room.

Eight were sick enough to be hospitalized even though there’s not much doctors could do, except monitor them and keep them hydrated. Antibiotics are never used when doctors detect E. coli O157 because that can make the symptoms worse.

If the E.coli infection is serious enough, it can cause kidney failure. And that happened to one person, who may have needed dialysis, possibly for life.

‘Lightning strikes twice’

At almost the same time last year, 48 Canadians in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada had similarly distressing experiences after eating romaine lettuce and becoming infected with the identical strain of E. coli.

Seventeen people ended up in hospital and one Canadian died.

Last February, Health Canada quietly closed the file without knowing where the lettuce came from or how it became infected.

There’s no way that, as far as I’m concerned, somebody should get sick for doing something that is not dangerous.– Lawrence Goodridge, McGill University 

The offending bacteria lurked all winter somewhere in the coastal fields of central California only to strike again in October making at least 63 people sick in Canada and the U.S. and prompting a North America-wide alert to avoid romaine lettuce.

For every person who is diagnosed with E. coli O157 Health Canada estimates another 20 were probably infected but never diagnosed.

This time investigators have an important clue — a DNA fingerprint match linking the two outbreaks.

“To actually get the same strain, associated with the same produce, at the same time of year, when you say lightning strikes twice, that’s exactly what it is,” said Keith Warriner, a food science professor at the University of Guelph.

“It’s pretty good evidence it’s the same source. The question is what is that source?” said Lawrence Goodridge, a food safety scientist at McGill University.

Lawrence Goodridge, a food safety scientist at McGill University, studies biological methods of controlling food-borne pathogens. He said the outbreak is both “nothing to panic about” and “something we have to urgently work on.” (Photo: Alex Tran)

A leading hypothesis is that animals, probably cattle, were the original source of the E. coli.

And the mode of infection has a high probability of being irrigation water contaminated by cattle feces.

‘We’re getting so many outbreaks now’

It’s estimated about 250 Canadians are infected with a dangerous Shiga toxin producing E. coli every year, after eating food that should be safe and healthy. Around eight people die.

“There’s no way that, as far as I’m concerned, somebody should get sick for doing something that is not dangerous,” said Goodridge. “It’s both nothing to panic about but at the same time it’s something we have to urgently work on.”

Scientists first discovered this dangerous strain of E. coli in 1982 and since then it has caused a series of high-profile outbreaks in beef, lettuce, spinach and other fresh produce across North America.

Cattle are one of main sources of E. coli O157. A made-in-Canada animal vaccine was developed to reduce E. coli in cattle and lower the risk of human infections. (Shutterstock / Sergey Bogdanov)

“It gets serious when we’re getting so many outbreaks now,” said Warriner.

But after three decades, there is still no consensus about what should be done to prevent human exposure.

Relying on testing food for E. coli is impractical, experts say.  

“For practical purposes right now it’s difficult to test all foods rigorously because even small amounts of contamination can cause serious illness,” said Herb Schellhorn, a biology professor who researches E. coli at McMaster University.

“It’s needles in haystacks,” said Warriner.

Improving the ability to trace food back to the growing area through better labelling is only useful after someone has already become ill.

“We can identify which lettuce made you sick. But it’s not going to stop you getting sick.” – Keith Warriner, University of Guelph 

“I’m a little concerned with the focus on traceability in that it’s kind of like putting a Band-Aid on the situation because if you solve the problem you won’t need to trace the food back,” said Goodridge.

“We can identify which lettuce made you sick. But it’s not going to stop you getting sick,” said Warriner.

Scientists are studying ways to kill E. coli in irrigation water and in harvested crops through sterilization, irradiation or bio-pesticides.

Made-in-Canada vaccine not being used

But what about tackling E. coli at its primary source, in the intestines of livestock?

That’s what University of British Columbia scientist Brett Finlay was trying to do when he developed a made-in-Canada vaccine for cattle that would reduce the amount of E. coli they shed into the environment.

Years ago Finlay discovered how the bacteria bind to intestinal cells. 

Brett Finlay, a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia, developed a cattle vaccine to reduce E. coli infections in humans.

Based on that discovery, he worked with a colleague at the University of Saskatchewan to design the vaccine.

With support from Canada’s research foundations and about $25 million in public funding from the federal and provincial governments, a small Canadian company called Bioniche turned Finlay’s discovery into a world first.

The vaccine was tested in series of studies showing it was safe, and that it did not harm the animals.

A team of  independent Scottish researchers developed a computer model and calculated that vaccinating cattle could reduce human infections by up to 85 per cent.

It almost killed me. It was very sad. The whole thing was very sad.– Graeme McRae, former president of Bioniche

The vaccine was approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2008. But Canadian cattle producers were not persuaded. And the vaccine went out of production.

“The whole thing became very political,” said Graeme McRae, former president of Bioniche. The company is no longer in business. “It almost killed me. It was very sad. The whole thing was very sad.”

One problem: cattle producers were reluctant to pay for the vaccine because it didn’t improve the health of their animals and added no value to their operations.

And the federal government didn’t offer to pick up the estimated $50 million annual cost even though the vaccine might reduce the risk of human E. coli infection.

“It’s a bit ironic. Because of the creativity of the idea to vaccine the cows for a human disease, it sort of landed in a never-never land for who is going to take onus for it and [be] responsible for it,” said Finlay.

Cattle producers still have doubts

Today the vaccine manufacturing plant in Bellville, Ont., sits idle. And the original patents have been returned to UBC where they’re sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere, available to anyone who might want to revive the idea.

“It’s very disappointing to do the work and find something that should make a difference, and probably would make a difference,” said Rodney Moxley, professor of veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences at the University of Nebraska. He published nine peer-reviewed papers showing the vaccine worked after testing it in more than 20,000 animals.

“If they could just simply solve the questions about who’s going to pay for it that might put it back on the table in terms of putting it out there.”

But cattle producers still have their doubts

“There were considerable uncertainties as to the effectiveness of that vaccine,” said Reynold Bergen, the scientific director of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s Beef Cattle Research Council, adding that the industry is studying other ways to reduce E. coli in cattle.

“E. coli shedding is a real concern for the industry,” he said.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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