Salmonellosis is a global problem caused by the international movement of foods and high incidence in exporting countries. In September 2001, in an outbreak investigation Australia isolated Salmonella Stanley from imported peanuts, which resulted in a wider investigation in Canada, England & Wales and Scotland. Patients infected with Salmonella serotypes known to be isolated from peanuts and reported to surveillance systems were interviewed to determine exposure histories. Tagged image file format (TIFF) images of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns of Salmonella isolates were shared electronically amongst laboratories. Laboratories tested packets of ‘Brand X’ peanuts from various lots and product lines. In total, 97 cases of S. Stanley and 12 cases of S. Newport infection were found. Seventy-three per cent (71/97) of S. Stanley cases were in persons of Asian ethnicity. Twenty-eight per cent of cases recalled eating Brand X peanuts and a further 13% had peanuts in their house in the previous month or had eaten Asian-style peanuts. Laboratories isolated S. Stanley, S. Newport, S. Kottbus, S. Lexington and S. Unnamed from Brand X peanuts. Isolates of S. Stanley from peanuts and human patients were indistinguishable by PFGE. This international outbreak resulted from a product originating from one country affecting several others. Rapid sharing of electronic DNA images was a crucial factor in delineating the outbreak; multinational investigations would benefit from a harmonized approach.
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