NEWS - Staph, MSRA, Sweeteners, Food Access

A great article on Ebola in this months September 29, 2014 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. “Ebola Rising.”  It explains the story behind a drug development.  A recommended reading for all.


Agricultural Economic Report No. (AER-741) 93 pp, August 1996

Microbial pathogens in food cause an estimated 6.5-33 million cases of human illness and up to 9,000 deaths in the United States each year. Over 40 different foodborne microbial pathogens, including fungi, viruses, parasites, and bacteria, are believed to cause human illnesses. For six bacterial pathogens, the costs of human illness are estimated to be $9.3-$12.9 billion annually. Of these costs, $2.9-$6.7 billion are attributed to foodborne bacteria. These estimates were developed to provide analytical support for USDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems rule for meat and poultry. (Note that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii is not included in this report.) To estimate medical costs and productivity losses, ERS uses four severity categories for acute illnesses: those who did not visit a physician, visited a physician, were hospitalized, or died prematurely. The lifetime consequences of chronic disease are included in the cost estimates for E. coli O157:H7 and fetal listeriosis.

The cost estimate for E. coli O157:H7 (now termed STEC O157) was subsequently updated in collaboration with FoodNet in 2005, using FoodNet surveillance data and a case-control study of STEC O157 patients.

In 2003, ERS introduced the Foodborne Illness Cost Calculator, an interactive online version of the updated ERS cost estimates for selected foodborne pathogens. The Cost Calculator initially included the Salmonella cost estimate, and later added the STEC O157 estimate. The Cost Calculator provides detailed information about the assumptions underlying each estimate, and allows users to make alternative assumptions and re-estimate the costs. An updated version with additional pathogens of the Cost Calculator is in development.

Access to Food

Efforts to encourage Americans to improve their diets and to eat more nutritious foods presume that a wide variety of these foods are accessible to everyone. But for some Americans and in some communities, access to healthy foods may be limited. Using population data from the 2010 Census, income and vehicle availability data from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, and a 2010 directory of supermarkets, this report estimates that 9.7 percent of the U.S. population, or 29.7 million people, live in low-income areas more than 1 mile from a supermarket. However, only 1.8 percent of all households live more than 1 mile from a supermarket and do not have a vehicle. Estimated distance to the nearest three supermarkets is an indicator of the choices available to consumers and the level of competition among stores. Estimates show that half of the U.S. population lives within 2 miles of 3 supermarkets

What Is a Staph Infection?

Staphylococcus is a group of bacteria that can cause a number of diseases as a result of infection of various tissues of the body. Staphylococcus is more familiarly known as Staph (pronounced "staff"). Staph-related illness can range from mild and requiring no treatment to severe and potentially fatal.

Over 30 different types of Staphylococci can infect humans, but most infections are caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococci can be found normally in the nose and on the skin (and less commonly in other locations) of around 25%-30% of healthy adults and in 25% of hospital workers. In the majority of cases, the bacteria do not cause disease. However, damage to the skin or other injury may allow the bacteria to overcome the natural protective mechanisms of the body, leading to infection.

A staph infection is caused by a Staphylococcus (or "staph") bacteria. Actually, about 25% of people normally carry staph in the nose, mouth, genitals, or anal area. The foot is also very prone to picking up bacteria from the floor. The infection often begins with a little cut, which gets infected with bacteria.

These staph infections range from a simple boil to antibiotic-resistant infections to flesh-eating infections. The difference between all these is the strength of the infection, how deep it goes, how fast it spreads, and how treatable it is with antibiotics. The antibiotic-resistant infections are more common in North America, because of our overuse of antibiotics.

One type of staph infection that involves skin is called cellulitis and affects the skin's deeper layers. It is treatable with antibiotics.

This type of infection is very common in the general population -- and more common and more severe in people with weak immune systems. People who have diabetes weakened immunity are particularly prone to developing cellulitis.

What is MRSA?

This tiny cluster of bacteria is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), seen under a microscope. This strain of the common "staph" bacteria causes infections in different parts of the body -- including the skin, lungs, and other areas. MRSA is sometimes called a "superbug" because it is resistant to many antibiotics. Though most MRSA infections aren't serious, some can be life-threatening.

What Are the Symptoms of a Staph Infection?

Staph cellulitis usually begins as a small area of tenderness, swelling, and redness. Sometimes it begins with an open sore. Other times, there is no break in the skin at all -- and it's anyone's guess where the bacteria came from.

The signs of cellulitis are those of any inflammation -- redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. Any skin sore or ulcer that has these signs may be developing cellulitis.