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NewsBites April 2016 Issue

Genetics May Affect Foodborne Illness

If you're the "canary in the coal mine" who's always the first to get sick from that undercooked burger or picnic potato salad, blame your genes. Duke University scientists report that people who become the sickest from foodborne illnesses may have genetic differences from those whose bodies somehow fend off the infections. In a small study of 30 volunteers who bravely drank a slurry containing E. coli bacteria, researchers identified differences in 29 immune-related genes. Just looking at the genetic differences could predict who would get sick and who could shrug off the infection, according to the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Some of the genes seem to be specifically designed to fight E. coli, scientists said; a similar study of another cause of intestinal distress, such as norovirus, might identify different such genes.

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