Published: 08/06/22 11:10 Categories: Microbiology

Commemorations are being held in June for World Food Safety Day. This action is celebrated every year to draw attention and mobilize action to prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks and improve human health, which affect one in ten people around the world. 


Foodborne pathogens and diseases 


The most commonly found microorganisms mainly responsible for infectious outbreaks include Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Yersinia and Shiga toxinproducing E. coli (STEC). The latter is positioned as the fourth most reported zoonotic disease in the EU in 2020 according to EFSA, whose data were impacted by two major causes: the UK's withdrawal from the EU and the COVID-19 pandemic. 



Reported numbers of cases and notification rates of confirmed human zoonoses in the EU, 2020. EFSA and ECDC, 2021. The European Union One Health 2020 Zoonoses Report. 


Escherichia coli, as is well known, is a gram-negative bacterium of the Enterobacteriaceae family and is considered to be part of the gut microbiota present in the vast majority of animals and human beings. 


Specifically referring to STEC, also known as VTEC or EHEC, it is one of the main pathotypes of this bacterium that is unique due to its expression of Shiga toxins, very similar to Shigella dysenteriae toxins. 


Within STEC, the most common serotype, due to its historical predominance in outbreaks and sporadic cases, is O157. However, this picture would seem to be changing, due to the emergence of other STEC serotypes over recent years, such as O26, O103, O104 and O145. It is important to point out that not all serotypes need to be reported. 


Is STEC relevant to food safety? 


The dangers of STEC lie in its transmission, which occurs primarily via contaminated foods and is therefore one of the most frequent causes of gastroenteritis. The most serious risk, however, is the chance of contracting Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) which is characterized by acute kidney failure, and can even affect other organs such as the lungs, pancreas and heart and even cause death, in which the population most at risk are infants and the elderly.