Scientist Suggests Chicken Vaccination To Stop Food Poisoning
Till the edible vaccines become a reality, it is important to eat safe. Probably thinking on the same lines, an American scientist has suggested that the chicken that we eat could be vaccinated to avoid cases of food poisoning. The chickens carry Campylobacter jejuni bacteria in them, which is a leading cause of food-borne illness, particularly in the UK. Scroll down for the whole story.
1) The Situation
At present, about 30% cases of food poisoning in UK are caused by Campylobacter and the food-borne illness itself costs the Government about £2 billion annually. In 2009 alone, this bacteria was found to be responsible for more than 371,000 cases of food-borne illness in England and Wales, resulting in 88 deaths.
2) The Bacteria
Campylobacter jejuni is normally found in many animals, including chickens. The micro-organism gets transferred to humans if the chicken or poultry is not cooked properly and, then, it may lead to a severe case of gastrointestinal disease. For quite some time now, the scientists have been engaged in finding a solution to this problem so as to avoid the human and financial costs of this disease. After a long research, hope is finally in sight.
3) The Study
Professor Michael Konkel, who is leading a team of scientists of Washington State University, to study the maternal antibodies passed from hens to their offspring, have been able to identify the bacterial molecules that the antibodies work against, which, they claim, has given them a “starting point for a vaccine against Campylobacter.” Prof Konkel says, “These antibodies protect chicks from becoming colonized by Campylobacter in the first week of life. We have already found that chickens injected with these specific molecules – found on the surface of Campylobacter jejuni – produce antibodies against the bacterium. This response partially protects them from colonization.”
4) The Vaccine
Prof Konkel explains the importance of a vaccine in preventing food contamination by Campylobacter. He says, “ Preventing contamination of poultry at slaughter has not been effective at reducing illness in humans. It has been shown that about 65% of chickens on retail sale in the UK are contaminated with Campylobacter.” The ideal way to prevent this contamination is to stop chickens from being colonized right on the farm, says the Professor. His team’s goal is to test the vaccine on chickens in the next 6 months as it is believed that the vaccine would be able to reduce the colonization levels. However, as the Professor says, “There’s still a long way to go, but I’m confident our lab and others are moving in the right direction.”
5) The Significance
The American scientist believes that this vaccination would have a significant impact on food-borne illnesses, both in the UK and rest of the world. Professor Konkel says, “A safe food supply is central to human health. If we can decrease the load of human pathogens in food animals, then we can reduce human illness. A 1% reduction in the number of cases of food-borne illness would save the UK around £20 million per year. In developing countries, where people and food animals often share the same environment, diseased animals also pose a direct public health risk; vaccination would help mitigate this risk.” Quite a hopeful future there!
After Prof. Konkel presented the findings of his study at the Spring Conference of Society for General Microbiology in Dublin, this issue has been making the rounds of all scientific minds in the world and a widespread solution may well be in sight. However, till that happens, there are other means to avoid food borne diseases and one of them is to eat your chicken only after cooking it properly.