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What bacteria do unborn babies contain?

What bacteria do unborn babies contain?


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This Scientific American article states that "[human] infestation [by bacteria] begins at birth". This would suggest that unborn babies are free from any bacteria. However, if the mother catches a bacterial infection, her unborn baby risks catching it, too. This would seem to contradict the Scientific American article.

Presumably, when a human egg is fertilized by a sperm, the resulting cell may be free of any bacteria. At some point, bacteria begin to colonize the growing human body. Which bacteria are the earliest to colonize, and at what point in the development cycle does this occur?

In particular: does the health of the foetus depend on the presence of certain bacteria?


Babies are bacteria-free at birth. The meconium (the first stool) contains no bacteria if secured early enough.

Meconium is a sterile mucilaginous material that accumulates in the fetal intestine and is expelled soon after birth. It contains secretions of intestinal glands, gut constituents (proteins, bile acids, fatty acids, and steroids), and components of amniotic fluid and vernix caseosa.

Bacterial colonization of infants begins at birth - literally. They pick up bacteria from the mother's vaginal canal in passing, which they swallow. This is not seen in infants delivered by C-section. The importance of colonization picked up through normal birth is such, that some hospitals are swabbing the vagina of mothers delivering by CS and colonizing the oropharynx that way. Breast-milk also contains lactobacilli and bifidobacteria that probably contribute to the initial establishment of the gut flora of newborns.

And, yes, an infection the mother has while delivering must be taken into account. Herpes and Group B strep are both dangerous for a neonate.

The first microbes to colonize the intestines of newborn babies are the aerobic bacteria Escherichia coli and Streptococci. Later, the gut is colonized with anaerobic bacteria, e.g. Bacteroides, Bifidobacteria, and Clostridia. In 1-2 y, the gastrointestinal tract of infants has developed a natural microflora, which resembles the microflora of adults.

The infant continues to pick up bacteria from all people they come into regular contact with, including nurses.

The effect of the maternal flora on the initial gut colonization may be less than expected as the fecal flora of infants started to resemble both the fecal flora of the mother as well as that of the first nurse. Breast milk may contain bacteria which colonizes the gut as well

Infants aren't overwhelmed by infection due to the presence of antimicrobial peptides found on their skin, GI tract, and immunity is conferred via breast milk.

Several AMP have been characterized in vernix and skin of the newborn, indicating a well-developed innate immune system, which may play a pivotal role at the time of postnatal colonization.

Antimicrobial Components of the Neonatal Gut Affected Upon Colonization
Dynamics of gut colonization and source of intestinal flora in healthy newborn infants
Protection of the Neonate by the Innate Immune System of Developing Gut and of Human Milk
Establishment and development of lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria microbiota in breast-milk and the infant gut


What’s in a baby poop?

What’s this? An invitation to discuss poop? And I have a baby? Do you not know moms of infants? I can hardly spend a day without talking about poop. And familiarity has not bred contempt for the poopy diaper. They say that diapers are not as gross when it’s your own child, but I have to break the news here – that’s complete crap. As it were. All poopy diapers are gross. Do not fail to respect the poopy diaper.

Surprisingly, the lowly feces may be the window to the most complex organ in the human body. I’m not talking about the intestines, but actually the bacteria that live inside them – what’s known as the human normal flora. Not merely the source of “ick,” the gut intestinal flora helps digestion, modulates the immune system, and protects the cells of the gut.

How does a baby, coming from a sterile womb, develop its intestinal flora? I contacted a friend of mine, Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Guelph University, to ask her. Emma, a delightful British expatriate with a quirky sense of humor, studies intestinal ecology in humans. Which means that she spends an inordinate amount of time dealing with poop. And she’s a mother of two girls. So that’s like a double whammy – poop at home and at work.

Emma sent me a couple papers dealing with the development of the microflora in babies and what I learned really surprised me. Traditionally it was thought that infants were inoculated with the flora of their mothers as they passed through the birth canal. However, babies born by c-section are not delayed in the development of their intestinal communities. Instead what seems to be the determining factor in the development of early microbial communities is whether or not the infants breastfeed. And it seems that the bacteria that colonize the infant gut comes directly from the breast milk (Martin et al. 2007. Research in Microbiology. 158:31).

It’s long been known that you can cultivate Lactobacilli, a very friendly and common intestinal resident and component of many probiotic mixes, from breast milk, but it was assumed that the original inoculum came from the birth canal to the baby’s mouth, then baby’s mouth to the breast. However, the finding that c-section babies and their mothers show similar levels of Lactobacilli in babies’ stools and breast milk contradicts that theory. It’s unclear how Lactobacilli are getting in breast milk, but Emma suggests that evidence is pointing to translocation from the gut.

The story gets more interesting yet: it turns out that breast milk also contains milk oligosaccharides that the infant is incapable of digesting. They can be eaten, however, by Bifidobacteria, specifically a subspecies of B. longum that colonizes the infant gut. While it’s chemically possible to generate hundreds of oligosaccharides, only those that are potential food for important microflora are produced in the breast (Sela and Mills, 2010, Trends in Microbiology, 18:298).

That breast milk supplies both beneficial bacteria and food for these bacteria suggests that intestinal microbiota is far more important and sophisticated than we typically think. The time from birth to when an infant is weaned is the time when this microbiota is established, and once established, is largely stable throughout an individual’s life. In fact, a person’s microbial community may be as distinct as a fingerprint. It’s a poo print.

And that brings us back to poo. Unglamorous, maybe, but an invaluable research tool? Definitely. Emma has developed sophisticated chemostats for the culturing of gut microflora to mimic the ecology of the distal gut. These chemostats are computer monitored to maintain proper flow rates, retention times, and feeding rates, and are affectionately called “roboguts.” “They stink,” says Emma, “and I love them.” Using paired roboguts seeded with feces, Emma and her students are able to mimic challenges to the gut microflora to see what happens to the community. For example, the hormone norepinephrine mediates the stress response. When added to a robogut with a stable microbial community, the community is immediately disrupted and the populations exhibit chaotic dynamics.

The intestinal microflora probably plays a large role in the development of the gut and immune system. Mice raised in sterile environments posses intestines that fail to fully develop. In babies, the intestinal microflora is dynamic over the first two years, but largely approximates an adult community by the time they are eating adult food (Martin et al 2007). Emma and her colleagues are involved in front line research that suggests that challenges to the normal flora within these years may be implicated in regressive autism. Children with regressive autism develop normally until about two years, then suddenly become autistic. They are also plagued with gastrointestinal upsets: diarrhea, constipation, pain, even distended bellies. While traditionally, it was assumed that the GI complaints were secondary to the autism, Emma and her colleagues are investigating whether the GI disorder is causative.

As you can imagine, this is a conversation that can induce paranoia in any first time mom my first reaction was “HOW DO YOU FEED YOUR BABY TO MAKE SURE THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN. ” Furthermore, the furor over the now debunked link between vaccines and regressive autism shows how loaded the issue is. (I have done a lot of research on the whole vaccine issue so let me be perfectly clear: THERE IS NO LINK BETWEEN VACCINES AND AUTISM. SO VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN.) Emma’s advice to me was strongly pragmatic: “quit worrying, and let your baby take the lead. The bugs in your gut control you: what you crave to eat, and to some extent, how you behave. Your baby will let you know when she’s ready for something new, or not ready.” The stability of the intestinal community shows how incredibly resilient it is, and certainly having evolved in a strongly non-sterile environment for most of our evolutionary history would have had to have made our intestinal communities quite tough. So relax. There’s a whole sophisticated army of bacteria in the gut of every infant doing battle to protect their home.


Infections during pregnancy – health risks for the unborn child

Along with the happiness about the pregnancy arises the worry about the unborn’s health. Some pathogens are of particular concern to the expectant mother. They may be transmitted from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy or birth or shortly after birth and can cause aborts, malformations or postnatal infections of the child. They include Toxoplasma gondii (toxoplasmosis), rubella virus, cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus (HSV) as well as further pathogens, such as Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough), Chlamydia trachomatis, Parvovirus B19 (fifth disease), Treponema pallidum (syphilis) and Varicella zoster virus (VZV, chickenpox). All together are comprised under the acronym TORCH (for Toxoplasma, Others, Rubella, CMV, HSV).

Determination of the immune status of the mother may help to estimate the risk of primary infections and to avoid corresponding sources of infection. With the EUROLINE Anti-TO.R.C.H. 10 profile serum antibodies (IgG) against 10 pregnancy-relevant infectious agents may be assessed in parallel:

Toxoplasma gondii (Toxoplasmosis)

Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease which is common in cats. Parasites can be transferred to humans via contact with the faeces of infected cats, or via consumption of raw meat or milk. Those infection sources shall be avoided during pregnancy in case testing reveals that the mother does not have IgG antibodies against the parasite. A positive test result, instead, indicates a previous infection and the antibodies provide a good protection for the mother and her child against future infections.

Rubella virus, Parvovirus B19 (fifth disease) and Varicella zoster virus (chickenpox)

Rubella, fifth disease and chickenpox belong to the classical children’s diseases. Who experienced them once has built-up a life-long basic immunity against the viruses. This can also protect the unborn child when the antibody concentration is sufficiently high. A positive antibody finding should therefore be supported by a quantitative determination of the IgG titer. If testing reveals a lack of immunity prior to a pregnancy, vaccination against rubella and chickenpox can be caught up. If the woman is already pregnant, she should avoid potential sources of infection, e.g. childcare facilities.

Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough)

Whooping cough is also a classical children’s disease. However, the danger for the baby is not the infection during pregnancy but an infection shortly after birth. If the serum sample of the expectant mother showed none or low-concentrated IgG antibodies against Bordetella, vaccination during or after pregnancy would be sensible. Also, the people in the closer surrounding of the baby should be immune/ vaccinated. This way they function as a protective shield for the child and decrease the risk of an infection.

Cytomegalo virus (CMV)

Primary infections with the cytomegalovirus often pass without clinical symptoms and remain unnoticed in most cases, but constitute a major health risk for the unborn child. If the mother has specific IgG antibodies and an acute infection can be excluded, the health risk for the child will be decreased due to the protective effect of the maternal antibodies. However, if the mother lacks immunity against CMV, the risk of infection which may be harmful to the unborn is high after contact with a virus carrier. Transmission usually occurs via smear infection.

Herpes simplex viruses (HSV-1, HSV-2)

More than 80% of the German population carries HSV-1 (main causative agent for herpes blistering in the face), around 20% carry HSV-2 (main causative agent for herpes blistering in the genital region). The characteristic herpes blisters constitute the primary source of infection. Once infected, the virus persists latently within the affected cells. From time to time and not in all virus carriers, the acute disease can break out. With the help of the antibody determination, a persisting infection can be reliably diagnosed. A risk of infection for the child exists during birth if the mother suffers from genital herpes at that time. Also infections after birth (neonatal infections) are dangerous and can lead to severe complications.


Toxoplasmosis: Pregnancy FAQS

Generally, if you were infected with Toxoplasma before becoming pregnant your unborn child is protected by your immunity. Some experts suggest waiting for 6 months after a recent infection to become pregnant.

How do I know if I have been infected with Toxoplasma?

Your health care provider may suggest one or more varieties of blood tests to check for antibodies to Toxoplasma.

How can Toxoplasma affect my unborn child?

If you are newly infected with Toxoplasma while you are pregnant, or just before pregnancy, then you can pass the infection on to your baby. You may not have any symptoms from the infection. Most infected infants do not have symptoms at birth but can develop serious symptoms later in life, such as blindness or mental disability. Occasionally, infected newborns have serious eye or brain damage at birth.

How is toxoplasmosis spread?

Cats play an important role in the spread of toxoplasmosis.

Cats play an important role in the spread of toxoplasmosis. They become infected by eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals. The parasite is then passed in the cat&rsquos feces. Kittens and cats can shed millions of parasites in their feces for as long as 3 weeks after infection. Mature cats are less likely to shed Toxoplasma if they have been previously infected. Cats and kittens prefer litter boxes, garden soils, and sandboxes for elimination, and you may be exposed unintentionally by touching your mouth after changing a litter box, or after gardening without gloves. Fruits and vegetables may have contact with contaminated soil or water also, and you can be infected by eating fruits and vegetables if they are not cooked, washed, or peeled.

Do I have to give up my cat if I&rsquom pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant?

No. You should follow these helpful tips to reduce your risk of environmental exposure to Toxoplasma:

  • Avoid changing cat litter if possible. If no one else can perform the task, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.
  • Ensure that the cat litter box is changed daily. The Toxoplasma parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in a cat&rsquos feces.
  • Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food, not raw or undercooked meats.
  • Keep cats indoors.
  • Avoid stray cats, especially kittens. Do not get a new cat while you are pregnant.
  • Keep outdoor sandboxes covered.
  • Wear gloves when gardening and during contact with soil or sand because it might be contaminated with cat feces that contain Toxoplasma. Wash hands with soap and water after gardening or contact with soil or sand.

Is there treatment available for toxoplasmosis?

If you are infected during pregnancy, medication is available. You and your baby should be closely monitored during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.

What are the best ways to protect myself or my unborn child against toxoplasmosis?

Cat owners and women who are exposed to cats should follow these tips to reduce exposure to Toxoplasma.

  • Avoid changing cat litter if possible. If no one else can perform the task, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.
  • Ensure that the cat litter box is changed daily. The Toxoplasma parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in a cat&rsquos feces.
  • Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food, not raw or undercooked meats.
  • Keep cats indoors.
  • Avoid stray cats, especially kittens. Do not get a new cat while you are pregnant.
  • Keep outdoor sandboxes covered.
  • Wear gloves when gardening and during contact with soil or sand because it might be contaminated with cat feces that contain Toxoplasma. Wash hands with soap and water after gardening or contact with soil or sand.

Cook food to safe temperatures. A food thermometer should be used to measure the internal temperature of cooked meat. Color is not a reliable indicator that meat has been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful pathogens like Toxoplasma. Do not sample meat until it is cooked. USDA recommends the following for meat preparation:

For Whole Cuts of Meat (excluding poultry)
Cook to at least 145° F (63° C) as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allow the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming. *According to USDA, &ldquoA &lsquorest time&rsquo is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.&rdquo

For Ground Meat (excluding poultry)
Cook to at least 160° F (71° C) ground meats do not require a rest time.

For All Poultry (whole cuts and ground)
Cook to at least 165° F (74° C). The internal temperature should be checked in the innermost part of the thigh, innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. Poultry do not require a rest time.

  • Freeze meat for several days at sub-zero (below 0° F) temperatures before cooking to greatly reduce chance of infection. *Freezing does not reliably kill other parasites that may be found in meat (like certain species of Trichinella) or harmful bacteria. Cooking meat to USDA recommended internal temperatures is the safest method to destroy all parasites and other pathogens.
  • Peel or wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, counters, utensils, and hands with soapy water after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, or unwashed fruits or vegetables.
  • Avoid drinking untreated water.
  • Do not drink unpasteurized goat&rsquos milk.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked oysters, mussels, or clams (these may be contaminated with Toxoplasma that has washed into seawater).

Should a woman breastfeed her infant if she had contracted a Toxoplasma infection during her pregnancy?

Yes. Among healthy women, the possibility of breast milk transmission of Toxoplasma infection is not likely. While Toxoplasma infection has been associated with infants who consumed unpasteurized goat&rsquos milk, there are no studies documenting breast milk transmission of Toxoplasma gondii in humans. In the event that a nursing woman experiences cracked and bleeding nipples or breast inflammation within several weeks immediately following an acute Toxoplasma infection (when the organism is still circulating in her bloodstream), it is theoretically possible that she could transmit Toxoplasma gondii to the infant through her breast milk. Immune suppressed women could have circulating Toxoplasma for even longer periods of time. However, the likelihood of human milk transmission is very small.


While some microbes do cause disease, most do not. About 5,000 species of bacteria have been identified, but only about eight percent cause disease. While most species of disease-causing bacteria have been carefully identified (for obvious reasons), microbiologists estimate that 10 million other species of unidentified bacteria fill the earth. So the disease-causing species may account for only a tiny fraction of all bacterial species.

If most bacteria and other microbes don’t cause disease, just what are they doing? Since the Bible states that God made everything “very good” at creation , creationists would expect to see the microbes’ very good function all around us, on a grand scale.

Antarctic lake ice—Antarctica is home to numerous microbes. In fact, some organisms survive in water two miles below the continental ice sheet, where no air or light reaches. The frigid water is seven times saltier than the ocean, and the temperature falls below 14°F (-10°C).

Quite remarkably we find that microbes play a vital role in distributing and recycling nutrients all over the planet.5 For example, every living thing needs carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Many bacteria specialize in recycling these nutrients through the air, water, and land. This crucial process, called biogeochemical cycling, takes place on an unimaginably huge scale (see “The Necessary Matrix of Bacteria”).

Many, many microbes must work in concert to perform this cycling. Once thought to be a sterile wasteland, the deep earth appears to be a major chemical factory, filled with a mass of bacteria that could be greater than the combined mass of all plants and animals living on the surface.

Without the millions of different microbes, the earth’s vast resources would be useless to us. We need their help to get the necessary chemicals out of the earth and into our bodies. We couldn’t even eat steak or salad without bacteria in our stomach to help break food down. So every day, throughout the day, God displays His infinite love and wisdom, caring for every living thing even at the lowest, molecular level.

Acidic hot springs—Hot springs, such as those in Yellowstone National Park, are home to a spectrum of microbes. They can survive temperatures well above 100°F (35°C) and acids potent enough to dissolve iron.

Microbes play a vital role in distributing and recycling nutrients for living things all over the planet.

Consider just one example—nitrogen recycling. Unlike the oxygen in the atmosphere, the nitrogen that we breathe is basically useless to humans and animals. The chemical bonds are just too strong. But a few bacteria and other microbes have the incredible ability to break the bonds of nitrogen and make it useful to living things.

In fact, many plants have specialized organs attached to their roots that house these nitrogen-loving bacteria. This relationship between plants and bacteria is a common phenomenon called mutualism, a form of symbiosis. It is a relationship whereby each partner benefits by living with the other partner.


Which Foods Should You NOT Eat When Pregnant?

Pregnancy is often seen as a time for a mom to be to splurge and eat whatever she wants without feeling guilty. Pregnancy also brings with it cravings that are sometimes weird, strange, and unhealthy. Pregnancy cravings, in and of themselves, are not usually dangerous. However, there are some foods that can be dangerous to unborn babies during pregnancy. Read on for the scoop on what foods to avoid while you are pregnant. Claim Your 20 Free Pregnancy Tests – Click Here

Some fish that contains high levels of mercury can be dangerous for women during pregnancy. Eating fish that is high in mercury can lead to problems with the development of the baby’s brain and nervous systems. Fish to avoid includes mackerel, swordfish, shark and tilefish. Even fish that is considered low in mercury, such as salmon, shrimp and catfish should be limited to less than 12 ounces per week.

No sushi during pregnancy! Pregnant women should avoid anything raw, including raw eggs or cookie dough. Eating raw or undercooked foods during pregnancy can open up a pregnant woman to a host of bacteria, diseases, and other illnesses.

Soft cheeses, such as brie, feta, and and blue cheeses should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because these cheeses are sometimes known to carry dangerous bacteria such as Listeria. Eating foods that contain Listeria bacteria can lead to Listeriosis, which can cause miscarriage, preterm labor and stillbirth. Make sure that any and all cheese that you eat while pregnant is pasteurized.

Much like soft cheeses, deli meats can contain listeria bacteria, which can lead to illness and problems with the baby. Avoid deli meats as much as possible while pregnant to steer clear of these problems.

Fruits and vegetables should always be washed thoroughly before eating. Dirty, unwashed veggies can lead to toxoplasmosis, a dangerous blood disorder that can lead to jaundice, mental retardation and low birth weight in babies.

You might think that soy products would be healthy, but during pregnancy, they should be avoided. Some experts think that excess amounts of soy can cause hormonal effects in the body, which can lead to problems with the baby’s development. Some experts think too much soy can impact the way the reproductive organs develop, the way the immune system develops, and can give a child increased risk of behavior problems and learning disabilities.


Mutant genes can promote genetic transfer across taxonomic kingdoms

Researchers now have a better understanding of the mechanism underlying how certain bacteria can transfer genetic material across taxonomic kingdoms, including to fungi and protists. Their work could have applications in changing how bacteria perform certain functions or react to changes in their environment.

Bacteria do not sexually reproduce, but that does not stop them from exchanging genetic information as it evolves and adapts. During conjugal transfer, a bacterium can connect to another bacterium to pass along DNA and proteins. Escherichia coli bacteria, commonly called E. coli, can transfer at least one of these gene-containing plasmids to organisms across taxonomic kingdoms, including to fungi and protists. Now, researchers from Hiroshima University have a better understanding of this genetic hat trick, which has potential applications as a tool to promote desired characteristics or suppress harmful ones across genetic hosts.

They published their results on May 20 in Frontiers in Microbiology.

Plasmids transfer from one bacterium -- the donor -- to another -- the recipient. A particular kind of plasmid, called IncP1, can be hosted by a variety of bacteria and, seemingly as a result of its broad hosts, can transfer DNA to recipients beyond bacteria. The hypothesis is that the plasmid contains genes cultivated from different hosts and donors, resulting in this unique ability.

"Although conjugation factors encoded on plasmids have been extensively analyzed, those on the donor chromosome have not," said paper author Kazuki Moriguchi, associate professor, Program of Basic Biology, Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life, Hiroshima University.

There have been some studies on the various genes, according to Moriguchi, but the function of the genes was not examined, so it is not clear how they were related to the conjugation mechanism.

In this study, the researchers conducted a genome-wide survey on an extensive collection of bacteria mutants as donors to yeast. The mutants were engineered to have specific genes "knocked out" in order to study how the overall system performs without the presence of that specific gene, allowing researchers to infer information about the gene's function.

"We focused on 'up' mutants that have the ability to accelerate conjugative transfer to both prokaryotes and eukaryotes as they could be potent donor strains applicable to gene introduction tools," Moriguchi said, noting how IncP1's ability to transmit genetic material across kingdoms could be used to develop precise tools to introduce genes capable of changing how the bacteria perform certain functions or react to changes in their environments.

Out of 3,884 mutants surveyed, three were identified that could conjugate across E. coli or from E. coli to yeast without accumulating genetic material, indicating that the genes worked together. The researchers analyzed the genes but were unable to elucidate the exact target or targets of conjugation mechanism that allows for cross-kingdom transfer. However, their analysis did reveal how the genes appear to work.

Two of the genes work to repress the unknown target in the E. coli donor. Simultaneously, the third gene is inactivated, allowing another unknown target to resume activity.

"The results suggest that the unknown target factors of these three genes form a complex in order to activate or repress the conjugation, either directly or indirectly at an identical step or steps of the IncP1 conjugation machinery, although the exact mechanism beyond this phenomenon remains unknown," Moriguchi said.

According to Moriguchi, the data collected in this study can help facilitate the breeding of donor strains from various bacteria, each of which carries a high affinity with target organisms in addition to having a high conjugation ability.


Fact or Fiction from Food Safety for Moms to Be

When you're pregnant, you receive lots of advice - some of which can be confusing, conflicting, or inaccurate. To help you separate reality from fiction, here are seven common foodborne illness myths, along with the facts.

Preventing foodborne illness is easy as.

  1. Clean – Wash hands and surfaces often.
  2. Separate – Don't cross-contaminate.
  3. Cook – Cook to proper temperatures.
  4. Chill – Refrigerate promptly.

For more information about the 4 Simple Steps to Food Safety, see Lifelong Food Safety.

Myth 1: Foodborne illness doesn't happen very often, so it isn't a serious issue.

Fact: Foodborne illness is indeed a serious issue for everyone.

Each year in the U.S., foodborne illness accounts for:

If you eat food that's contaminated, you could become sick. And, the risks are particularly serious for those in at-risk groups, such as pregnant women. For example, certain foodborne bacteria, such as Listeria monocytogenes, can be particularly harmful to moms-to-be and their unborn babies. For more information, see Listeria.

Myth 2: The only time food isn't safe to eat is when it looks or smells spoiled.

Fact: Many people assume that because food spoilage is visible, this is the only time that food isn't safe to eat. However, this is not always the case. Food that looks and smells fresh may contain harmful foodborne bacteria that you can't see. And, in fact, food-spoilage bacteria are not the same as bacteria that cause foodborne illness.

Food-spoilage bacteria deteriorate (decay) food. Basic cleaning practices and proper refrigeration will reduce or slow down spoilage. Foodborne bacteria, on the other hand, contaminate food - making it unsafe to eat. For more information on how to prevent foodborne illness, see Lifelong Food Safety.

Myth 3: Foodborne illness is caused by the last food you ate.

Fact: It's often difficult to determine which food actually caused the illness.

Eating a contaminated food will usually cause illness in one-to-three days, but sickness can also occur in as little as 20 minutes or as long as six weeks later. Within this amount of time, you would have eaten a wide range of foods, and any of these foods could have contributed to the illness.

Myth 4: Foodborne illness can only affect the mother - not her unborn child.

Fact: Not true. Harmful foodborne microorganisms that cause foodborne illness can seriously harm the mother and can also cross the placenta and infect her developing fetus. As a result, the infected fetus or newborn can experience a wide range of health problems - or even death. So, pregnant women should know the risks and how to prevent them.

Myth 5: Seafood isn't safe to eat while I'm pregnant.

Fact: Seafood is a good source of high quality protein and other nutrients for you and your baby. However, it is true that you should avoid eating certain types of seafood while you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant, and you should carefully select and prepare seafood.

  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked finfish or shellfish (including oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops). Raw fish (such as sushi or sashimi) or foods made with raw fish are more likely to contain parasites or bacteria than foods made from cooked fish.
  • Always cook fish thoroughly, until it's opaque (milky white) and flakes easily with a fork.
  • Don't eat King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, and tuna (bigeye). These fish can contain high levels of methylmercury.
  • If you eat fish caught by family or friends, check for fish advisories, if there is no advisory, eat only 1 serving and no other fish that week.

Fish and other protein-rich foods have nutrients that can help a child's growth and development. Due to the evidence of benefits from eating fish, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consume at least 8 and up to 12 ounces per week of a variety of fish, from choices that are lower in methylmercury. For more information, see Dietary Advice for Moms-to-Be.

Myth 6: Cheese is safe to eat, whether it's hard or soft.

Fact: It all depends on the type. Cheese made from unpasteurized milk can become contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can be harmful to a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. Since some soft cheeses may be made with unpasteurized milk - especially traditional, homemade soft cheeses - pregnant women should not eat soft cheeses, such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, "blue-veined cheeses," or "queso blanco," "queso fresco," or Panela - unless they're made with pasteurized milk. Check the label to make sure it says, "made with pasteurized milk."

Myth 7: Hot dogs are pre-cooked, so it's okay to eat them raw.

Fact: Actually, it's important to always reheat hot dogs until they're steaming hot. Some ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs, can become contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes after they have been processed and packaged at the plant. If it's not possible to reheat hot dogs, don't eat them.

Many foodborne illnesses are probably caused by food prepared in the home. To test this theory, the Food and Drug Administration funded a survey in which scientists videotaped 100 families preparing food in their kitchens. The families initially thought they were being taped on how to make a specific recipe, and they also thought their kitchens were relatively "food safe." Here's what the scientists found out:


The science is conclusive: That fetus is a baby

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An ultrasound is performed at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines. (Photo: Des Moines Register file photo) Buy Photo

The Register's Rekha Basu argues in a recent column that calling a fetus a "baby" is somehow a construct of religion and rhetoric, rather than "established science."

The scientific evidence, however, overwhelmingly concludes just the opposite: The preborn child in her mother's womb — she's not just a "fetus," she's a baby.

Many Iowans like me learned middle-school science through textbooks from publishers like McGraw-Hill. Today, those same science textbooks reveal near universal agreement that our human lives begin long before we're born, even before we're considered "viable" to survive outside the womb.

In McGraw-Hill's textbook, "Patten's Foundations of Embryology, 6th ed.," for example, biology professor Bruce M. Carlson of the University of Michigan, writes, "The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual."

In other words, you and I begin our lives not when we're born, but when we're conceived.

Another textbook, "Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd ed.," from publisher Wiley-Liss, asserts that fertilization is the "critical landmark" when a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed . Yet, the text explains, "life is a continuous process" throughout the pregnancy .

As Harvard University Medical School professor Micheline Matthews-Ross testified before a 1981 U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, "It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception … and that this developing human always is a member of our species in all stages of life" (New York Times, April 26, 1981).

In other words, Matthews-Ross was saying, a baby is a baby — from fertilization, to heartbeat, to birth. Yes, the baby of five weeks in the womb differs from the newborn, but so does the toddler differ from the teen. Scientifically, we pass through different stages as we grow, but we don't pass from person to non-person, or vice versa.

At that same 1981 government hearing, Dr. Watson A. Bowes of the University of Colorado Medical School asserted: "The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter — the beginning is conception. This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political or economic goals."

After examining the evidence, the Senate subcommittee reported: "Physicians, biologists and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being — a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological and scientific writings." (Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981)

The 37 years of scientific advancement since that subcommittee hearing have only confirmed its findings. Children survive premature birth today at younger and younger ages, demonstrating how arbitrary it is to argue life doesn't begin until a baby is "viable." And today's 3-D ultrasounds give us astonishing, heartwarming pictures, revealing that the little child in her mother's womb — she's a baby.

"[It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion," testified professor Jerome LeJuene of the University of Descartes. "It is plain experimental evidence."

Even many abortion advocates have come to grips with this scientific reality. Naomi Wolf, a Clinton advisor and abortion supporter, wrote in The New Republic: "Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. … The death of a fetus is a real death."

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who co-founded the abortion advocacy group NARAL and personally presided over 60,000 abortions, later confessed in the film "The Silent Scream" that "Modern technologies have convinced us that beyond question the unborn child is simply another human being , another member of the human community, indistinguishable in every way from any of us ."

And at a 2014 panel discussion presented by the National Abortion Federation, Dr. Lisa Harris of Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan put it even more plainly: "[Mothers] are not stupid. They know what’s in there. … It's violence. It's a person. It's killing."

Basu's column ignores this scientific reality, instead raising the tired, misleading straw man that the pro-life argument is inherently religious instead of scientific . But Iowa's Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders includes Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, evangelicals and more — people who would deeply disagree on religion. Yet there's one scientific premise we all agree upon: The unborn child in her mother's womb — she's a baby .

In his Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun also ignored the science, stating, "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. … The judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate."

The scientific community, however, is at virtual consensus as to when life begins. And it's precisely because Blackmun dodged that question in his 1973 Roe ruling that we're still arguing about abortion today.

You and I have heard all the arguments by now. But there's one fact — "established science" — that can't be argued away: That little child in her mother's womb — she's not just a "fetus," she's a baby.


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