While we think of food poisoning, or foodborne illness, as one thing, it’s actually a broad term that encompasses more than 250 kinds of disease-causing germs, including Salmonella, E. coli and rotavirus.
And those germs can cause varying degrees of nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, depending on a number of factors.
But scientists in Oklahoma have for the first time revealed a new method of spread, making it a possible STI.
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The study focused on campylobacter, one of the many common bugs that leads to food poisoning.
Campylobacter infections usually occur when someone consumes chicken that has not been cooked properly or the juices that come from it.
It can also happen when people drink water or milk that has been polluted by unhealthy animals.
According to Researchers sexual contact lead to an outbreak of campylobacter infections in men who have sex with other men in northern Europe.
It found the illness was 14 times higher in men who were sexually active with other men compared to the control group.
The results are relevant to people of any sexual orientation whose sex may involve “fecal-oral contact”, according to lead author Dr. Katrin Kuhn.
This is when infectious particles from faeces are ingested through the mouth.
Some STIs are passed this way, including herpes and gonorrhoea.
Dr Kuhn said:
Two other food poisoning bacteria, salmonella, and shigella, were also examined in the study.
Salmonella spreads primarily through infected foods and has a high infectious dose, meaning people have to consume a lot of it to become ill.
For comparison, shigella transmits through food or sexual contact with a low infectious dose, making it easier to transmit.
Dr. Kuhn, an infectious disease scientist at the OU Hudson College of Public Health, explained:
Campylobacter typically causes an uncomfortable but treatable bout of diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps.
But in rare and serious cases, it can lead to life-changing complications.
In some cases, infection can result in reactive arthritis, in which the body’s immune system attacks itself, causing pain in the joints.
Infection can also lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a serious nerve disorder that can cause paralysis.
In people with weakened immune systems, such as those with AIDS or receiving chemotherapy, campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and can become deadly, according to the CDC.
The agency says campylobacter causes an estimated 1.5million illnesses each year in the US.
Between 50,000 and 60,000 cases occur in England and Wales each year, according to Public Health England data to 2017.
But the latest study estimates that millions of cases are undiagnosed.
They said for every one case diagnosed by a doctor, a predicted 20 more people are infected.
Dr Kuhn said:
The team’s research has been published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).