Home Psychology Cronobacter: contamination, dangers, what is it?

Cronobacter: contamination, dangers, what is it?

Cronobacter: contamination, dangers, what is it?

Although Cronobacter infections are rare, they can be dangerous. Explanation with Pauline Kooh, scientific project manager within the food risk assessment unit at ANSES.

What is Cronobacter?

Cronobacteria are bacteria present in the environment. They are considered opportunistic pathogens responsible for infections, especially in newborns (infants born less than two months premature or with low birth weight) and in humans elderly or immunocompromised. These bacteria have the ability to survive well in dry environments for long periods of time. They can be found in the food powders such as infant formula, milk powder and factory environments for powder production. “Infections with Cronobacter bacteria are relatively rare. Between 2012 and 2017 Six cases have been registered in France. Although there is no surveillance system, cases are recorded indirectly by Public Health France, through the nosocomial infection surveillance system. The last epidemic in France dates back to 2004 and involved newborns in five hospitals (9 cases, including 2 deaths)“, explains Pauline Kooh, scientific project manager within the food risk assessment unit at ANSES.

Contamination occurs exclusively through food. Foods at risk include: nutritional powders intended for infants and the elderly, including preparations for special medical purposes. Baby powders are not sterile; pathogenic bacteria such as Cronobacter or salmonella. “When reconstituting the powder, these bacteria can multiply if conditions are favorable, e.g if the bottle is stored at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Nasogastric feeding tubes premature babies also represent factors of nosocomial transmission“, indicates the head of scientific projects at Anses.

What are the dangers of Cronobacteria?

Cronobacter are opportunistic pathogens that can cause various types of infections. In newborns, they essentially are responsible for meningitis, blood poisoning and necrotizing enterocolitis (intestinal necrosis). “Early signs of a Cronobacter infection may include: fever or difficulty eating. In the elderly or people with a weakened immune system, Cronobacter can cause various types of infections, such as: abscesses, bacteremia, pneumonia or even urinary tract infections“, specifies the specialist.

“The diagnosis is confirmed by identification of bacteria in the bloodcerebrospinal fluid or stool from patients”, says Pauline Kooh.

The treatment is generally based on administration of antibiotics.

► Cronobacter is a fairly common pathogen in the environment of children’s powder production factories. “In this manufacturing sector, Cronobacter and salmonella are considered significant hazards, the control of which is essential to ensure product safety. Food powder manufacturers can prevent product contamination by the strict application of general hygiene measures (ingredient analysis, environmental pollution prevention, cleaning and disinfection, etc.)”the scientist observes.

► For the consumer these are the poor conditions for reconstituting and storing infant milk which promote the multiplication of bacteria. “Hence the necessity to strictly apply hygiene measures (wash your hands before preparing the bottle, use water intended for human consumption, observe milk storage measures: a prepared bottle should be consumed within one hour or stored in the refrigerator at 4°C for a maximum of 48 hours stored; clean the bottle quickly after use). For the premature or hypotrophic neonatesit is recommended use sterile liquid preparations“, recommends Pauline Kooh.

Thanks to Pauline Kooh, Scientific Project Manager within the Food Risk Assessment Unit at ANSES.


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