I’D LIKE MINE RARE, PLEASE

WHAT EV­ERY MEAT EATER NEEDS TO KNOW

Guru Magazine - - Contents - ARTEM CHEP­RASOV• AN­I­MAL GURU

Rare, medium or well-done? Steak-lovers be­ware! An­i­mal Guru and ve­teri­nary sci­en­tist Artem looks at the less palat­able side of Amer­ica’s favourite meal. Per­haps it’s time you went veg­e­tar­ian…

A while back, when I wasn’t a veg­e­tar­ian, I loved the taste of a bloody steak. Sure, I was warned I could con­tract “some­thing” from un­der­cooked meat, but I was never told what it would be, how it would af­fect me, and I cer­tainly never both­ered to find out for my­self. If you’re also the type of in­di­vid­ual who prefers their steak rare, en­joys un­der­cooked seafood, or even chows down on raw eggs, then at the very least I hope you know that you could be leav­ing your­self open to some nasty an­i­mal­borne dis­eases. And there are some deadly con­se­quences from your din­ing habits. In my case, I got lucky. I think. Un­less some par­a­site has en­cysted it­self some­where in my body, I have man­aged to avoid any ma­jor prob­lems. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be so lucky. With this cheer­ful thought in mind, here are some of the nas­ti­est food-borne ill­nesses you might en­counter and how they can de­stroy your life, you’re un­born child’s, and your din­ner party guest’s.

A Brain Eat­ing Worm: Cys­ticer­co­sis Evil Agent: Tae­nia solium This lit­tle stinker, known as the pork tape­worm, may be con­tracted from eat­ing or han­dling un­der­cooked pork. The worm’s eggs have a par­tic­u­lar lik­ing for your mus­cles and brain. The con­se­quences of its in­ges­tion in­clude vi­sion loss, seizures, and death. If you’re a fan of eat­ing un­der­cooked pork then you’ll also be a will­ing vic­tim of an­other nasty lit­tle worm called

Trichinella spi­ralis. This round­worm’s lar­vae sim­i­larly bur­row into your body, pro­duc­ing a con­di­tion called trichi­nosis, which may pos­si­bly lead to fever, mus­cle pain, and death. In some places around the world, up­wards of a

20% preva­lence rate of cys­ticer­co­sis in the

gen­eral pop­u­la­tion is not un­heard of.

Help! I Can’t Breathe! Parag­o­nimi­a­sis

Evil Agent: Parag­o­nimus west­er­mani While this par­a­site is a ‘fluke,’ it won’t be a fluke if you get it from eat­ing un­der­cooked seafood.

Known as the lung fluke, this flat­worm is found in seafood like crabs and cray­fish. P. west­er­mani will pen­e­trate your in­testines and travel to your lungs, where it will lay eggs and wreak havoc. This flat­worm will ul­ti­mately cause dif­fi­culty breath­ing, a bloody cough, and seizures if it in­fects the brain. While this in­fec­tion is quite rare, and is more com­mon in cer­tain re­gions of Africa and Asia, im­ported crabs and cray­fish that are con­tam­i­nated have been known to in­fect hu­mans out­side of th­ese re­gions.

Bloody Di­ar­rhea: Salmonel­losis Evil Agent: Sal­mo­nella species Lovers of raw eggs should not throw cau­tion to the wind! Eggs in­fected with Sal­mo­nella af­fect over 142,000 Amer­i­cans an­nu­ally and can con­tam­i­nate vir­tu­ally any food you eat – al­though eggs are a fre­quent of­fender. Wor­ry­ingly, some of the Sal­mo­nella strains are al­ready be­com­ing re­sis­tant to an­tibi­otic treat­ment. The con­se­quences of th­ese bac­te­ria in­clude ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain, vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhea, and death.

Schiz­o­phrenic Abor­tion:

Tox­o­plas­mo­sis Evil Agent: Tox­o­plasma gondii

T. gondii is a par­a­site that may be found in un­der­cooked lamb, pork, beef and poul­try. Un­pas­teurised milk and the house­hold cat are also po­ten­tial sources of in­fec­tion. You don’t have to eat your cat to be in­fected, and you cer­tainly don’t need to give up your fa­vorite kitty. In fact, hu­mans in many de­vel­oped na­tions are are far more likely to ac­quire Tox­o­plas­mo­sis from eat­ing con­tam­i­nated food than from cats. Cats con­tract Tox­o­plasma from hunt­ing ro­dents, birds, or, like you, eat­ing con­tam­i­nated food. In fact, about 45% of do­mes­tic cats in de­vel­oped na­tions carry T. gondii. 3–10 days af­ter in­fec­tion, the cat will be­gin to pass Tox­o­plasma eggs in its fe­ces for a pe­riod of about two weeks. Once passed, it will take at least one day for the eggs to be­come in­fec­tive. The good news is that th­ese Tox­o­plasma eggs are only excreted once in a cat’s life­time (un­less it gets prob­lems with its im­mune sys­tem in later life). In some ar­eas of the world up to 95% of peo­ple are in­fected by this par­a­site, al­though this num­ber is usu­ally far lower in highly de­vel­oped na­tions. But if you avoid let­ting your cat hunt, make sure it doesn’t eat con­tam­i­nated food, clean its lit­ter box on a daily ba­sis and keep it healthy over­all, then your chances of your cat in­fect­ing you with Tox­o­plasma are very slim are very slim. If you do be­come in­fected, you may es­cape with­out any ill ef­fects what­so­ever. But more un­lucky folk (and es­pe­cially those with se­ri­ous ill­nesses) may find Tox­o­plasma caus­ing in­flam­ma­tion of the brain, learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties in chil­dren, schizophre­nia, abor­tion, and death.

I’ll have my steak well done, please So what’s the moral of the story? If the food you eat at home or in a restau­rant has been prop­erly stored, washed, and thor­oughly cooked, then the chances of you get­ting one of th­ese nasty bugs is min­i­mal. How­ever, if you’re a risk­taker who doesn’t fol­low proper hy­giene and san­i­ta­tion, doesn’t clean their food well, cook it thor­oughly, or freeze it prop­erly, then you are putting your life, and that of your din­ner guests, on the line. Oh, and as a fi­nal note, if you’re a veg­e­tar­ian like me and think you’re safe, you’d be wrong as well. Here’s some food for thought: veg­eta­bles are some­times re­called due to po­ten­tially deadly bac­te­rial con­tam­i­na­tion (in­clud­ing Sal­mo­nella and E. coli). Th­ese bac­te­ria are some­times iden­ti­fied to be from strains spe­cific to the hu­man gut. Now I won­der how they got there…

LEFT: MRI scan show­ing mul­ti­ple cys­ticerci

within the brain.

ABOVE:

Tox­o­plasma

gondii in a heart mus­cle fi­bre.

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