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Fungus In Yogurt Outbreak Poses A Threat To Consumers: Study

Update Date: Jul 08, 2014 01:00 PM EDT

The fungus responsible for an outbreak of contaminated Greek yogurt last year was harmful, a new study has found. 

Last year in September, customers of Chobani brand Greek yogurt complained of gastrointestinal (GI) problems after consuming products that were manufactured in the company's Idaho plant. The company issued a recall and it was thought at that time that the fungal contaminant Murcor circinelloides was only a potential danger to immunocompromised individuals. However when the complaints of severe GI discomfort continued from other healthy customers as well, researchers took it under scrutiny. 

"When he heard about the Chobani recall after reports of people becoming sick from yogurt contaminated with Mucor circinelloides, we thought the M. circinelloides strain could cause more serious problems than one might think." said Soo Chan Lee of Duke University, an author on the study, in the press release. 

Researchers isolated a strain of the fungus from a yogurt container that was subject to recall. They identified the strain as Mucor circinelloides f. circinelloides (Mcc) which unlike other strains of the fungus is commonly associated with human infections.

"When people think about food-borne pathogens, normally they list bacteria, viruses, and maybe parasites. Fungal pathogens are not considered as food-borne pathogens. However, this incidence indicates that we need to pay more attention to fungi. Fungal pathogens can threaten our health systems as food-borne pathogens" said Lee.

The study has been published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

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