Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Poisoning from Food Underlying Cause

The most common cause of food poisoning is the ingestion of toxins produced by bacteria in contaminated food. Traveler's diarrhea can occur anywhere, but is more common in the underdeveloped world.

Some viruses can also cause food-borne illness, such as norovirus. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite, called Toxoplasma gondii, and it is another common cause for food-borne illness.

Bacteria that cause food poisoning include:

The leading causes of death due to food-borne illness include:

Toxigenic E. coli
Several types of E. coli bacteria that produce powerful toxins (chemicals) that can cause severe illness. Although E. coli is a normal intestinal bacteria, these bacteria have acquired (through evolution and the inter-species transfer of DNA) genes that allow them to produce dangerous toxins. Other toxigenic E. coli include: STEC, ETEC, and EHEC.

E. coli 0157:H7
E. coli 0157:H7 is a strain of E. coli bacteria that produces a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness. E. coli 0157:H7 is found in the intestines of healthy cattle, sheep, goats, and deer. Transmission to humans can occur when the stool of infected persons is passed from one person to another (if hygiene or hand washing habits are inadequate). Other routes of infection include: consumption of meat (particularly ground beef) that has not been cooked sufficiently to kill the bacteria and the consumption of contaminated sprouts, lettuce, or spinach. Drinking unpasteurized juice or milk can also transmit the bacteria. Some infections have developed after swimming in contaminated water.

Continue to Poisoning from Food Anatomy

Last Updated: Feb 2, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Poisoning from Food References
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  6. Wong CS, Jelacic S, Habeeb RL: The risk of the hemolytic-uremic syndrome after antibiotic treatment of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections. N Engl J Med 2000 Jun 29; 342(26): 1930-6. [10874060]
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