Canadian science and hamburger disease

Posted Nov 6, 2013 by Tim Sandle
A special edition of the Canadian Journal of Microbiology celebrates the contribution of Canadian scientists to research into major food-borne illnesses like E. coli.
File photo: Red meat burger
File photo: Red meat burger
In the article, Dr. Cimolai, a clinician and medical microbiologist, has documented the history of food microbiology, especially focusing on the key discoveries and major contributions made by Canadians to the science of what many people refer to as "hamburger disease."
"Hamburger disease" is a term applied to food poisoning of under-cooked meat products caused by verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC). These toxin-producing E. coli are disease-causing bacteria and can cause episodes of diarrhea and bloody diarrhea. They can also lead to a complicated medical disorder known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, the most common acute form of serious kidney failure among children.
Dr. Cimola writes in the article: "As stories of microbiological and infectious disease discoveries are told, one of the most charming of these in Canadian history is the recognition of VTEC and associated disease…The contributions of our national scientists in this field must be seen as a vital part of medical and microbiological Canadiana.” (Canadiana is a term referring to things related to the country of Canada.)
In the article, Dr. Cimola mentions Jack Konowalchuk, Joan Speirs and their collaborators in Ottawa, who defined the E. coli verotoxin; Mohamed Karmali, Martin Petric and colleagues at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, who established the association of VTEC and hemolytic-uremic syndrome; Carlton Gyles, University of Guelph Veterinary School, and Peter Fleming, Hermy Lior and their scientific and medical peers.