Research -Multistate Outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infections Associated with Consumption of Fresh Spinach: United States, 2006

Journal of Food Protection Ecoli Istock

During September to October, 2006, state and local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated a large, multistate outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections. Case patients were interviewed regarding specific foods consumed and other possible exposures. E. coli O157:H7 strains isolated from human and food specimens were subtyped using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analyses (MLVA). Two hundred twenty-five cases (191 confirmed and 34 probable) were identified in 27 states; 116 (56%) case patients were hospitalized, 39 (19%) developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, and 5 (2%) died. Among 176 case patients from whom E. coli O157:H7 with the outbreak genotype (MLVA outbreak strain) was isolated and who provided details regarding spinach exposure, 161 (91%) reported fresh spinach consumption during the 10 days before illness began. Among 116 patients who provided spinach brand information, 106 (91%) consumed bagged brand A. E. coli O157:H7 strains were isolated from 13 bags of brand A spinach collected from patients’ homes; isolates from 12 bags had the same MLVA pattern. Comprehensive epidemiologic and laboratory investigations associated this large multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections with consumption of fresh bagged spinach. MLVA, as a supplement to pulsed-field gel electrophoresis genotyping of case patient isolates, was important to discern outbreak-related cases. This outbreak resulted in enhanced federal and industry guidance to improve the safety of leafy green vegetables and launched an independent collaborative approach to produce safety research in 2007.


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