Health Highlights: Sept. 8, 2008

U.K. researchers have found that colonies of Pseudomonas in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis produce tissue-destroying enzymes and poisons that attack the lungs, including one that's chemically similar to rattlesnake venom.

These bacteria can live in biofilm communities in the lungs and can become resistant to antibiotics, making them extremely difficult to treat. Pseudomonas bacterial infections thrive in the thick mucous produced in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients and this type of infection is usually the cause of early death in these patients, BBC News reported.

The Cambridge University team found that these bacterial colonies are more active than previously thought and produce a number of dangerous enzymes and poisons.

"This is the first time that anyone has successfully proved that the way the bacteria grow affects the type of proteins they can secrete and therefore how dangerous they can potentially be to our health," said team leader Dr. Martin Welch, BBC News reported.

The trigger for the release of these harmful proteins is turned on shortly after the bacterial biofilm starts to form.

The study may help lead to the development of a drug to target the poisons, an advance that could help in the treatment of cystic fibrosis and antibiotic-resistant hospital superbugs.

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Salmonella Cases Prompt Alfalfa Sprout Recall in Northwest

On the heels of the huge nationwide salmonella outbreak that caused more than 1,400 illnesses from Mexican peppers, a regional Oregon alfalfa sprout distributor has recalled its product in Oregon and Washington state after the sprouts were linked to 13 cases of salmonellosis .

According to the Seattle Times, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and health officials in Oregon announced a recall of Sprouter's Northwest brand alfalfa sprouts after 13 people in the two states showed signs of salmonellosis after consuming the sprouts. No deaths have been reported.

Sprouters Northwest, headquartered in Kent, Ore., voluntarily recalled its alfalfa sprout products, the newspaper reports. They are distributed in grocery stores, supermarkets and used in restaurants. The first incidents of salmonella poisoning -- which can cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting -- were reported in early August, the newspaper reports.

This is the second suspected salmonella outbreak involving Sprouter's Northwest, the Times reports. The company recalled alfalfa sprouts in Washington and Oregon in 2004 after 12 people became ill, according to the USDA Web site.

Any Sprouter's Northwest products should be thrown away or returned, the newspaper reports.

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