Streptococcus suis in pigs causes meningitis in a human

Published on May 01, 2006
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Streptococcus suis bacteria in pigs have jumped to a human for the first time on record in the United States, according to reports from Cornell University.

Last year, a farmer with meningitis checked into Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, N.Y. The hospital's laboratory revealed the presence of S suis. Physicians from the hospital and Dr. Ruth N. Zadoks of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine discussed the case in a letter in the March 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Zadoks, a research associate at Cornell's Animal Health Diagnostic Center, confirmed the S suis infection in the farmer—who made a complete recovery after treatment with antimicrobials. Dr. Zadoks said the strain from the farmer superficially matches a strain in pigs and humans in Denmark and the Netherlands.

While the bacteria have transferred to humans in Europe in the past two decades, humans have regularly contracted the disease in Southeast Asia. In China, an outbreak of 204 human cases last year resulted in 38 deaths. South America also documented its first human case last year.

All human cases of S suis have originated with an animal infecting a human. Farmers can contract the disease from handling swine, and butchers are also at risk. Washing hands and cooking pork thoroughly can minimize the danger of infection.