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Study: Tomato juice could help treat food poisoning

21/03/2024 - François-Xavier Branthôme
Researchers found that drinking tomato juice could treat salmonella; Salmonella is the second most common food poisoning, affecting 1.3 million people every year

Drinking tomato juice could ward off a nasty form of food poisoning that lands 26,000 Americans in hospital every year, according to a new study. Researchers at Cornell University researched the effect of tomato juice, the main ingredient in a much-loved Bloody Mary cocktail, on the salmonella bacteria. 
It is most commonly found in meat like chicken, turkey and beef which hasn't been cooked properly. Roughly 1 in every 25 packages of chicken at the grocery store are contaminated with Salmonella - but cooking the meat at an adequate temperature kills it off.

For the new study, the team evaluated antimicrobial peptides in tomato juice, small proteins that destroy the membrane that keeps the harmful organism intact. They found that two antimicrobial peptides could stop salmonella Typhi, a foodborne illness that causes symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, in its tracks. Roughly 5,000 of the 1.3 million cases of salmonella that occur every year are thought to be of the Typhi sort, according to the CDC. 

Dr. Jeongmin Song, lead study author and associate professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Cornell University, said: “Our main goal in this study was to find out if tomato and tomato juice can kill pathogens, including Salmonella Typhi, and if so, what qualities they have that make them work.”

First they checked to see if tomato juice really does kill Salmonella Typhi, and once they had confirmed it did, the team analyzed the DNA of the tomato, to find the antimicrobial peptides that were involved. The team studied four of them and found that two were effective in killing Salmonella Typhi by impairing the bacterial membrane, a protective layer that surrounds the pathogen. The team also found that peptides in tomato juice could kill other variants of salmonella, which affects more than 1.3 million Americans every year. “Our research shows that tomato and tomato juice can get rid of enteric bacteria like Salmonella,” Dr. Song said. 

Salmonella typhi is a form of salmonella, a type of bacteria passed from feces of people or animals, and symptoms of an infection usually begin between six hours and six days after exposure. They typically resolve within another four to seven days without requiring medical intervention. Some people have no symptoms. However, the illness can sometimes be more severe and lead to hospitalization. People with pre-existing medical conditions, weakened immune systems, children under 12 months old, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to serious side effects - or even death.

In rare circumstances, salmonella infection can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and causing more severe illness, such as infections in the arteries, endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valve) and arthritis. Salmonella infects more than 1.3 million people every year, leading to 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths annually. The US just faced an outbreak of the bacteria last year linked to pre-cut fruits like cantaloupe, which has sickened more than 400 Americans.

The researchers said they hope the findings will encourage to eat and drink more tomatoes as well as other fruits and vegetables. 
The study was published at the end of January in the journal Microbiology Spectrum.

Some complementary data
More information: Ryan S. Kwon et al, Antimicrobial properties of tomato juice and peptides against typhoidal Salmonella, Microbiology Spectrum (2024). 

DOI: 10.1128/spectrum.03102-23






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