Public Release: 

Study suggests widespread environmental presence of Enterobacter sakazakii

NB. Please note that if you are outside North America, the embargo for Lancet press material is 0001 hours UK Time 2 January 2004


A bacterium that can be dangerous to premature babies and young infants could be more widespread in the environment than previously thought, suggest authors of a research letter in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

Enterobacter sakazakii occasionally causes illness among premature babies and infants. In some previously described outbreaks, infant formula-contaminated during factory production or bottle preparation-was recognised as a source for bacterial colonisation; however the degree of wider environmental contamination is unknown.

Chantal Kandhai from Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and colleagues used a refined isolation and detection method to investigate the presence of E. sakazakii in various food factories and households. Environmental samples from eight of nine food factories and from a third of households (five of 16) contained the bacterium. The investigators comment that appreciation of the widespread nature of this micro-organism needs to be taken into account when designing preventive control measures.

In an accompanying Commentary (p 5), Jeffrey M. Farber from Health Canada concludes: "Current industry efforts to reduce the occurrence of E sakazakii have focused on improving hygiene practices, coupled with environmental monitoring and end-product testing for the organism. Since powdered infant formula is not sterile and there is the potential risk of contamination during preparation, there is a need for care when preparing and handling reconstituted powdered infant formulas. Health-care professionals should follow recommendations provided by public-health officials and organisations such as the American Dietetic Association, and be alert to possible modifications."


Dr Chantal Kandhai, Wageningen University, Food Microbiology Group, PO Box 8129, 6700 EV Wageningen, Netherlands; T) 31-317-485358; F) 31-317-484978; E)
Dr Jeffrey M. Farber, Ph.D., Director, Bureau of Microbial Hazards, A.L. 2203G3, Food Directorate, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0L2; T) 613-957-0880; F) 613-954-1198; E)

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