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Lettuce's Roots Lure Salmonella
Date:10/11/2007

A sugar-like substance attracts the dangerous pathogen, scientists say

THURSDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Salmonella, a bacteria that causes tens of thousands of cases of foodborne illness each year, may be especially attracted to lettuce by the prospect of something sweet.

The bug is apparently enticed by a sugar-like substance lying in the leafy green's roots, say a team of Dutch scientists.

They believe the results may help one day find new ways to prevent infection with the potentially deadly germ, but others are not so sure.

"It's a laboratory study and it can't be generalized to anything else," said Dr. Douglas L. Hurley, a professor of internal medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and an infectious disease doctor at Scott & White. "It can't be generalized to lettuce growing in a field by a long shot."

"The great majority of human outbreaks of salmonellosis come from chicken or eggs, so the question is what kind of public health import would this have," added Philip Alcabes, an epidemiologist and an associate professor at the School of Health Sciences of Hunter College, City University of New York in New York City.

Indeed, salmonella infection usually comes from eating contaminated ground beef, eggs and pork and, increasingly, poultry, rather than produce.

Some 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States each year. However, because milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the actual number of infections may be 30 or more times greater. Some 600 people die each year after being infected with salmonella. Infection can cause diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea, in humans.

But foodborne illness in general, especially from E. coli, another bacteria, is being increasingly traced back to produce. And in March, the U.S. Food and Drug Admini
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