Major pathogens rise in Ireland in 2022

Major pathogens rise in Ireland in 2022

Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria infections all increased in Ireland in 2022, according to the latest figures.

Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), which is part of the Health Service Executive (HSE), shows the number of reports for the four pathogens rose compared to 2021.

Notifications of Salmonellosis doubled and the number of E. coli infections passed 1,000.

Full reports on these four pathogens and for outbreaks have not been published since 2018 because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response and limited capacity at HPSC.

Campylobacter infections went up from 3,147 in 2021 to 3,619 in 2022. More than 2,000 cases were in men and 1,590 in women. The less than 1 to 4 year old and the older than 65 age groups were the most affected.

Salmonella cases doubled from 173 in 2021 to 342 in 2022 but this is similar to 2018 and 2019 levels.

Of those affected, 168 were men and 174 were women. The less than 1- to 4-year-old age group had the most cases but levels were also high in 25 to 34-year-olds and 45 to 54-year-olds.

E. coli and Listeria
More than 1,000 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) notifications were noted. Up from 962 in 2021.

Where gender was known, 480 were men and 517 were women. The less than 1 to 4-year-old age group was by far the most affected with more than 330 cases while 206 cases were in the 65 and older age group.

A total of 18 listeriosis cases were recorded, up from 15 in 2021. Fourteen were men and four were women. Fifteen cases were in the over-65 age group while two were less than 1 to 4 years old.

Figures also show three cases of Bacillus cereus foodborne infection or intoxication compared to none in 2021.

The published data, which covers 2018 to 2022, reveals two cases of botulism, although it is unclear if food was the cause. There was also one report of brucellosis in 2022. All other years reported no notifications of these diseases.

There were 17 yersiniosis cases in 2022 compared to 18 in 2021. Cryptosporidiosis declined from 845 in 2021 to 566 in 2022.

Shigellosis went up from 70 in 2021 to 157 in 2022. Norovirus also increased from 439 in 2021 to 990 in 2022.

FSAI research needs
Meanwhile, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has published 37 research needs for 2023.

FSAI annually lists priority research areas to guide state bodies that fund such work and for scientists in research institutes. Studies on topics in the document would help advance the risk assessment and risk management work of FSAI and support the protection of public health.

The agency said food safety research is essential to address any gaps in knowledge, to support regulations, and to identify emerging issues and threats to the Irish food system.

Areas covered include automated systems to identify emerging risks, impacts of climate change and sustainability, food safety risks with new production methods, food safety culture, traceability of fresh produce, the safety of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, reducing E. coli in Ireland and Campylobacter in chicken and from other sources. 

Current priorities for vulnerability assessments include the beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and white fish supply chains, according to the document, which also mentions the development of methods to detect food authenticity issues as a key area.

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