Researchers Warn of Bacteria Found in Desserts in Mexico

Mar 25, 2009

A study to be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene reports that desserts from restaurants in Mexico are likely to give patients travelers’ diarrhea, and are yet another food to avoid when visiting developing countries where sanitation may not be optimal.

Diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travelers to destinations in developing and subtropical regions. Bacterial causes are most common, especially distinctive strains of E. coli called enterotoxigenic and enteroaggregative (not to be confused with the severe 0157:H7 Shiga producing E. coli (e.g. O157:H7) found in the U.S.).

In this study, investigators obtained a variety of from 35 randomly selected restaurants in Guadalajara, Mexico and from 33 randomly selected restaurants in Houston, Texas. More than 95 percent of the dessert samples from Guadalajara were positive for coliform bacteria (reflecting fecal contamination), with an average coliform count of 58,000 bacteria per gram of dessert. About 20 percent of the Houston samples were positive for coliform bacteria but with a much lower bacterial count: 2000 bacteria per gram of dessert. E. coli was found in 12 percent of the Mexican samples but in none of the Houston samples. Enterotoxigenic E. coli was the most common strain of E. coli found, and enteroaggregative E. coli was found as well. was the most common culprit.

When seeking travel advice, travelers are typically warned to avoid all foods that are not served hot, and to personally peel and prepare fruits and vegetables to avoid contracting food-borne illnesses such as traveler’s diarrhea. Other generally safe items include dry bread, syrups, jellies and jam. This study points out that desserts, especially ice cream, are another specific food item to avoid. The authors generalize their findings to ice cream desserts served in other developing countries, not just Mexico.

However, interpretations of the authors’ findings need to be tempered somewhat, since the authors did not specifically test ice cream or other desserts prepared by large manufacturers such as D’Onofrio made by Nestle which are common and popular, particularly in Latin America.

Other contributors to the paper were first author Karen J. Vigil from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Zhi-Dong Jiang from the UT School of Public Health at Houston, and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

The is the official journal of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, a worldwide organization of scientists, clinicians, and program professionals whose mission is to promote global health through the prevention and control of infectious and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the global poor.

Provided by American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Explore further: Team finds method for more precise diagnosis of pneumonia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Novel compound may treat acute diarrhea

Jun 16, 2008

In a development that may lessen the epidemic of diarrhea-related deaths among children in developing countries, scientists in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Ferid Murad, M.D., Ph.D., at The University of Texas Health Science ...

Recommended for you

Team finds method for more precise diagnosis of pneumonia

14 minutes ago

A patient survives life-threatening trauma, is intubated in the intensive care unit (ICU) to support his or her affected vital functions, starts to recover, and then develops pneumonia. It's a scenario well-known to physicians, ...

Screen women for chlamydia, gonorrhea, experts say

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—All sexually active women should be screened for two of the most common sexually transmitted infections: chlamydia and gonorrhea, according to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services ...

Noninvasive devices may help migraines, FDA says

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Two new prescription devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may provide some relief for people with migraine headaches who don't tolerate migraine medications well, ...

User comments : 0