Tighter Food Safety Linked To Drop In Guillain-Barré Syndrome Cases

A recent drop in Guillain–Barré syndrome cases in New Zealand has been attributed to tighter food safety regulations aimed at reducing bacterial infection from fresh poultry.

AsianScientist (Feb. 9, 2012) – Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a neurological condition which can result in paralysis or death, is typically triggered by an infection such as by the Campylobacter jejuni bacterium.

However, there had previously been no evidence showing that controlling campylobacteriosis rates in a population would lead to a decrease in GBS cases.

Now, scientists at the University of Otago have taken advantage of a unique set of circumstances in New Zealand to study the link between campylobacteriosis and GBS in the population.

New Zealand used to have the highest reported rate of campylobacteriosis in the world, until stricter regulations on the processing of fresh chicken were applied from 2006.

Associate Professor Michael Baker and colleagues identified 2,056 people admitted to New Zealand hospitals with GBS in the period of 1988 to 2010, giving a population rate of 2.3 cases per 100,000 a year, which is high by world standards.

By reviewing the number of reported cases of campylobacter infection in the corresponding period, they found that rates of campylobacteriosis increased annually from 1988 and peaked in 2006, the year stricter food safety regulations were introduced.

Just a year later, in 2007, there was a marked 50 percent decrease in campylobacteriosis cases, which corresponded to a significant 13 percent drop in GBS cases.

Overall, the scientists found a significant correlation between annual rates of GBS and campylobacter infection over the 23-year period.

“Based on this research we can say that about 25 cases of GBS a year in New Zealand were being caused by campylobacter infection,” Evans said.

“This study shows another reason why campylobacter infection should never be dismissed as just a stomach bug. People may end up paralysed for weeks or die if they develop GBS after eating food contaminated with campylobacter,” he said.

The article can be found at: Baker et al. (2012) Declining Guillain-Barré Syndrome After Campylobacteriosis Control, New Zealand, 1988-2010.


Source: University of Otago.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Yew Chung is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore.

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