Warning! Not for the squeamish

Killer mutant sheep graze on a human body

Now that student postings for the semester are coming to an end for the semester, I can update the blog with things that alarm me regarding Microbiology. Hence this posting from the Centers for Disease Control regarding a recent Campylobacter jejeuni outbreak from an unsuspected source. I also just noticed that this is the 200th posting on YCPMicro, so it seems appropriate to note this momentous occasion with some truly horrific imagery of the danger of microorganisms and their reservoirs.

Campylobacter infections are among the most common causes of gastroenteritis in the United States, with an estimated 2.4 million cases per year. As with most forms of gastroenteritis, the recommended treatment is to monitor the patient for complications, and allow the normal intestinal flora to outcompete the pathogen. Signs and symptoms typically resolve without antibiotics within two to 5 days, however more severe cases can be treated with antibiotics such as azithromycin. Fluids should be taken orally as long as the diarrhea continues to maintain hydration in the patient.

Infections occur sporadically with little hope for control, with occasional outbreaks due to infection from a single source. Such a case is reported in the CDC bulletin above, where several people from a sheep ranch in Wyoming. Two patients came down with severe diarrhea, and one experienced vomiting, fever, and severe abdominal cramps, and also required hospitalization. Both patients resolved without further intervention. Culturing of organisms from the patients recovered identical isolates, which were also identical to fecal isolates from 5 lambs.

The two individuals had been taking part in a “multiday event to castrate and dock the tails of 1500 lambs,” and were the only two to come down with the infection. Further investigation by the Wyoming Department of Health found this alarming tidbit:

the patients are the only two known to have used their teeth to castrate lambs

Recommendations by the Department of Health were two-fold: 1) to use standardized techniques for lamb castration, and 2) to wash their hands thoroughly after contact with animals. I might also respectfully suggest brushing one’s teeth as well, or perhaps using a mouthwash.  As a public service to all I also leave you with these Google Video links, but remember once you go and look at them, you can never un-look at them.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on December 13, 2011, in gross, Microbes in the News, Strange but True and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I so totally hope that I get to Chapter 21 in the Spring semester BIO230 course, as I really, really want to be able to liven up the discussion of vibrios with a nice Campylobacter case study!

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