(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Scientists at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) here have launched a research project to investigate E.coli contamination in the wake of the recent outbreak of the disease in Germany and other countries in Europe.
The scientists, Dr Mumtaz Khan, Senior Researcher at SQU Water Research Centre, Dr Fahd al Said, Associate Professor in the Department of Crop Sciences, D Ann Mothershaw, Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, and Zahra Sulaiman al Kharousi, Technician in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, will examine E.coli contamination carry-over mechanism in cucumber.
The study is being conducted at the SQU Agricultural Experiment Station's greenhouse/microbiology laboratory facility where contaminated water and soil is being monitored to see its role in transmission of E.coli or other contaminants from soil/water to plant parts such as fruit, stem and leaf.
Recently, the world witnessed a lethal outbreak of E.coli starting in Germany, where the death toll has risen to 50, and almost 4,000 people suffered serious to minor illness in that country alone. The SQU scientists pointed out that E.coli had been confirmed of being the pathogen associated with the outbreak. Early reports, they said, suspected organic cucumber from Spain as the source of the epidemic.
However, later epidemiological investigations into the source of the outbreak have now confirmed that bean sprouts are responsible for spreading the killer disease.
The primary route of transmission of E.coli is through consumption of contaminated foods, such as raw or undercooked ground meat products and raw milk, contaminated water, direct contact with animals or contact with infected people.
The contamination of vegetables, the SQU researchers observed, may be more complex as there is usually no direct contact with the animal or meat products, adding:
It may arise with the run-off water from fields housing grazing animals or domestic waste water contaminating the vegetable fields directly or its water supply used for irrigation. This route of transmission is more likely to affect vegetables that are mostly eaten raw like cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach and tomatoes.