The incorporation of animal sugar into human tissue allows for the action of a bacterial poison that can trigger "hamburger disease". Image: Monash University Faculty of Medicine's multi-media department
Reading aloud Researchers have discovered why red meat and dairy products often trigger food poisoning: they not only bring along the pathogenic bacteria, but also create the conditions in the body that the microbes need for an invasion. During digestion, sugar-like constituents of animal foods are cultivated on the cells of the intestinal mucosa, to which in turn the toxin from the bacteria can dock. Thus, the bacterial toxin can cause a dangerous gastrointestinal disease, which can even be fatal. Especially much of the sugar-like molecule is contained in lamb, pork or beef meat, as well as in cow's milk. A certain type of intestinal bacteria, called enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), can cause bloody diarrhea in humans. In the worst case, such infections can even lead to death. Since humans usually become infected by eating contaminated red meat, this disease is also referred to as "hamburger disease" in the English-speaking world. The trigger is a toxin that the bacteria produce and that puts a command cell in intestinal mucosal cells out of action? with the consequence that the cells die off.

However, a prerequisite for the action of the poison is the presence of a specific sugar-like structure on the surface of the cells. Due to a gene mutation, however, humans lack an enzyme that is necessary for the production of this sugar. He is the only known mammal that can not produce this type of sugar itself. This can be considered as a kind of genetic resistance to the poison. Unfortunately, the human body is able to absorb the missing sugar molecule from food and incorporate it into the body's own tissues, the researchers report. The poison recognizes the sugar on the cell surface and can thus unfold its effect. Thus the body destroys its innate, protective resistance. These foods should therefore be eaten well cooked only, the researchers recommend.

Emma Byres (Monash University, Victoria, Australia) et al: Nature, Online Preliminary Publication, DOI: 10.1038 / nature07428. ddp / Sonja Romans


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