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25th July 2017  Content supplied by: CDC

Outbreak Highlights Risk of Salmonella Infection from Working in Microbiology Lab

The PulseNet system of DNA fingerprinting using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS), has helped CDC and public health officials identify a USA multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections linked to use of the bacterium in clinical, commercial and teaching microbiology laboratories.

Twenty-four people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 16 states. WGS showed that the strain of Salmonella Typhimurium causing illness in this outbreak is closely related genetically to a strain from an outbreak in 2014 and an outbreak in 2011, both of which were linked to microbiology laboratories. As a result of the 2011 outbreak, several laboratory professionals across the country developed a set of guidelines for handling microorganisms safely in a teaching laboratory.

Among people for whom information was available, illnesses started on dates ranging from March 17, 2017 to June 22, 2017. Ill people ranged in age from less than one year to 57 years, with a median age of 24. Seventy-five percent of ill people were female. Among 21 people with available information, six (29%) were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about different exposures in the week before they became ill. Nine (69%) of 13 ill people had laboratory exposures. Ill people in this outbreak reported behaviors while working in the laboratory that could increase the risk of Salmonella infection. These included not wearing gloves or lab coats, not washing hands, and using the same writing utensils and notebooks outside of the laboratory.

The CDC recommends laboratory safety training for anyone working in a microbiology lab and either nonpathogenic or attenuated bacterial strains should be used when possible, especially in teaching laboratories.

More information is available on the Advice to Students and Employees in Microbiology Laboratories page.

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Date Published: 25th July 2017

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