Background and objectives-Foodborne illness has been determined to be one of the major limitations to the advancement of world health and with the ease of travel around the world and the increase in trade of food and animal products, the risk has been exacerbated in recent years. It has been proclaimed as one of the high priority issues in the Qatar National Food Security Master Plan. Different estimates of burden of disease consistently indicate a high cost per episode, irrespective of the country where the study is conducted. Bacterial pathogens among the leading causes of foodborne illness are E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria. In an effort to understand the risk of these foodborne pathogens in the retail industry in Qatar, this study investigated the presence of these pathogens among retail products. Methods—Swabs collected from retail items were screened for the presence of different serotypes of these four foodborne pathogens using a combination of bacterial enrichment and real time polymerase chain reaction detection. Most of the samples were pre-cooked and collected from big retail stores in Doha. Specific tests were for E. coli O157:H7, the E. coli genes stx and eae, which are linked to Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), E. coli O26, O111, O121, O45, O103 and O145, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter jejuni, coli and lari. Results—E. coli O157:H7 was detected among the samples at a rate of 4.2%, E. coli genes stx (26.6%) and eae (26.3%), which are linked to Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) (16.6%), E. coli O26(5.9%), O111(3.5%), O121(1.4%), O45(20.1%), O103(2.1%) and O145(2.1%). These serogroups of E. coli non-O157 are known to be food adulterants and have zero tolerance in the US. In addition, Salmonella spp. were detected in 13.5% of the samples while Listeria monocytogenes were detected in 5.2% of the samples. Conclusions—Although the prevalence for many is low, the higher prevalence of STEC genes and STEC serotype O45 is cause for concern. Shiga toxin producing serotypes are becoming nearly as much of a concern as the more commonly known O157:H7. This demonstrates the importance of properly cooking meat products. Being exposed to foodborne pathogens can increase the risk of chronic gastroenteritis sequelae, including Inflammatory Bowel Disease.


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