Food poisoning can be serious—as well as diarrhoea and vomiting, infection can have long term implications. Sarah J O'Brien looks at the key roles that doctors and vets have in tackling the hundreds of millions of cases a year worldwide
Foodborne disease (food poisoning) tends to be regarded as a comedy illness—not pleasant to have, or talk about, but little more than an inconvenience. Yet trivialising foodborne disease ignores the size of the illness burden: estimates vary from 76 million cases of foodborne disease annually in the United States1 to 5.4 million in Australia2 and 1.3 million in England and Wales.3 Three of the major pathogens—Campylobacter spp, Salmonella spp, and Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli O157 (STEC O157)—are zoonoses (that is, transmitted from vertebrate animals to humans). As well as causing acute symptoms including diarrhoea and vomiting, infection can have long term implications.
Campylobacter is the principal bacterial cause of gastroenteritis in the developed world. The World Health Organization estimates that about 1% of the population of Europe will be infected with Campylobacter spp each year. In England and Wales about 45 000 acute cases are diagnosed annually. Infection is