Contaminated Pizzas: Why Are Children More Contaminated With E.coli Bacteria Than Adults?

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In France, 75 cases of contamination with E.coli bacteria were detected, mainly children aged 1 to 18 years. Analyzes have confirmed a link between several cases of contamination and the consumption of frozen pizza.

In a few days, two children have died and nearly 75 cases have been identified across the country, according to the latest figures from Public Health France: Since the end of February, France has seen an unprecedented resurgence of symptomatic poisoning with E. coli bacteria. Analyzes have confirmed a link between several cases of contamination and the consumption of frozen pizzas from the range Fraîch’Up of the Buitoni brand. “We don’t understand what could have happened, but we will develop an analysis protocol that we will submit to the authorities,” Jérôme Jaton, Nestlé’s industrial director general, said during a press conference midweek.

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This is all the more worrying as children are on the front lines of this epidemic. The cases of contamination detected in France concern children aged 1 to 18 years. So adults seem to be less affected by the phenomenon: how can it be explained? According to Éric Oswald, bacteriology professor from Toulouse, deputy director of the INSERM Digestive Health Research Institute, we have to go back to the mechanism of action of this bacterium to find out why children develop more symptoms than adults because they are contaminated.

A specific mechanism of infection

The human body has billions of Escherichia coli bacteria: “Only some of them are pathogenic,” comments the professor The midi dispatch. These bacteria produce toxins that target the cells that line our blood vessels: endothelial cells. “This can explain the presence of blood in the stool, a hemolytic and uremic syndrome (kidney failure, ed.), with the destruction of the kidneys,” explains Professor Éric Oswald. Several symptoms are described: diarrhea, abdominal pain or vomiting, signs of extreme tiredness, pallor, decrease in urine.

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The disease-causing bacterium must first establish itself in the digestive tract before it releases its poison. To do this, it must “fight against the barrier that the gut microbiota represents.”

children more exposed

Since the beginning of this epidemic, if children have developed more severe forms than adults after contamination, it is because this intestinal barrier is less effective in them than in adults at fighting these pathogenic bacteria. ‘In a child, we assume that just 500 bacteria are enough to create a pathology. At the bacterial level, that’s nothing at all,’ Professor Éric Oswald recalls. Children are therefore more exposed to this bacterium than adults.

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E. coli in Buitoni pizzas: investigation opened for “negligent manslaughter”

So far, most cases of contamination have been found in Hauts-de-France (16) and New Aquitaine (11). This Friday, April 1, the Paris public prosecutor’s office announced the opening of a preliminary investigation into “manslaughter”, “deceit” and “endangering others”. This investigation, entrusted to the Public Health Center (PSP) of the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office, whose jurisdiction is national, opened on March 22nd. Complaints have been lodged with several courts in France. Toulouse lawyer Me Pierre Debuisson will represent ten families of the victims.

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