O-157 strain found in patient’s ‘kaiware’

The O-157 strain of the E. coli bacteria has been discovered in “kaiware” radish sprouts found in the home of one of six patients in an O-157 food-poisoning outbreak in mid-March in Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, the Aichi Prefectural Hygiene Department said Apr. 4.

According to the department, the six people, all residents of Gamagori, range in age from 19 to 32. They dined together at a home party on March 8.

Five of them complained of stomachache and diarrhea between March 11 and 13, and were diagnosed as having the O-157 strain of the E. coli bacteria. Later, the sixth person also developed similar symptoms.

Hygiene experts conducted microscopic examinations of food remnants, cooking knives and cooking boards, and detected E. coli bacteria only in the kaiware radish sprouts, the department said.

It also said the DNA of E. coli bacteria detected in the six patients was identified as that of bacteria detected in the kaiware.

The Health and Welfare Ministry has identified kaiware served in school lunches as a key suspect in the food-poisoning outbreak last year in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, in which 6,500 school children and others were sickened. But no E. coli bacteria was actually found in kaiware grown in Habikino, Osaka Prefecture, that was linked with that incident. Damages suits have been filed against the government by the national association of kaiware growers as well as the Habikino kaiware grower.

At least 10 people have died across the country from E. coli outbreaks since last summer.