Interactions between Infections, Nutrients and Xenobiotics

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During recent years there have been several incidents where symptoms of disease have been linked to consumption of food contaminated by chemical substances (e.g. TCDD). Furthermore, outbreaks of infections in food producing animals have attracted major attention with regards to the safety for consumers (e.g., BSE and influenza in chicken). As shown for several xenobiotics in an increasing number of experimental studies, even low-dose xenobiotic exposure may impair immune function over time, as well as microorganism virulence, resulting in more severe infectious diseases and possibly other diseases as well. Also, during ongoing infection, xenobiotic uptake and distribution is often changed resulting in increased toxic insult to the host. The interactions between infectious agents, nutrients, and xenobiotics have thus become a developing concern and new avenue of research in food toxicology, as well as in food-born diseases. From a health perspective, in the risk assessment of xenobiotics in our food and environment, synergistic effects between microorganisms, nutrients, and xenobiotics will have to be considered. Such effects may otherwise gradually change the disease panorama in society. The author of this report is senior food toxicologist at the National Food Administration, Uppsala, Sweden. He is PhD and Adjunct Professor in Experimental Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine, Uppsala University, Sweden, and a great part of his scientific production has been devoted to the theme covered in this report.



Altered Virulence of Microorganisms Caused by Nutrients and Xenobiotics

Chemical substances in food or lack of essential nutrients can, in connection with infection, potentially lead to changed conditions for the replicating microorganism in a direction that could be unfavourable for the infected host. From cell culture studies, microorganisms are known to be highly sensitive to the environment they grow in. Metal ions are important components in several gene regulatory proteins, including virus proteins (Fernandez-Pol et al., 2001). Essential virus and cellular Cu- and Zn-containing metal proteins are being studied intensively as key factors in the control and prevention of virus infection (Fernandez-Pol et al., 2001). Thus, in the infected host some information exists concerning how nutrients and chemicals influence the susceptibility to pathogens and the infection-replication phase, as well as how they affect the growth and virulence of microorganisms in infected tissues. However, from present data it is in most cases extremely difficult to evaluate whether an increased number of microorganisms is due to an immunotoxic effect or an actual effect on the specific microorganism. Moreover, all essential nutrients, as well as the majority of xenobiotics have not yet been studied from these aspects.


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