Staphylococcal Enterotoxins

Authored by: Jacques-Antoine Hennekinne , Sylviane Dragacci

Manual of Security Sensitive Microbes and Toxins

Print publication date:  April  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9781466553965
eBook ISBN: 9781466553989
Adobe ISBN:


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The correlation between staphylococci-containing food and symptomatology was not recognized until the twentieth century even if some cases have been described earlier. It was Baerthlein, when reporting on a huge outbreak involving 2000 soldiers of the German army during World War I, who established in 1922 the possible involvement of bacteria contaminating food:

I am going to report the case of an extended demonstration of poisoned sausages (approximately 2,000 cases) held in the spring 1918 during the military campaign of Verdun (France), which would probably have catastrophic military consequences. Early in June 1918, sudden and massive demonstrations that have the appearance of an acute and in some cases severe gastroenteritis, similar to cholera, affected the troops around Verdun; entire companies were disabled except just a few people, and within two days about 2,000 men had been affected. The symptoms were so severe that some troops had to be transferred to field hospitals. The suspicion of food poisoning has been mentioned because, according to reports of the sick, the disease occurred 2 or 3 hours (some of the symptoms appeared after 6 to 8 hours) after eating a dish of sausages. Only troops who did not eat the meal were spared, such as soldiers who had returned to headquarters to receive orders, soldiers who for other reasons had not eaten sausages, and soldiers who were on leave and/or following a different diet. However, it was surprising that among the troops that were not present at the front, such as butchers, who ate the same sausage two days earlier, we did not observe any cases of disease.

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