Studies find germs in street food, water, vegetables

Manzur H Maswood | Published: 00:27, Jan 31,2020


The Dhaka residents are at high risks of contracting enteric diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid as the city’s drinking water, vegetables and street foods are replete with pathogens.

The high concentration of pathogens like Escherichia coli, norovirus, vibrio cholerae, shigella, salmonella typhi and giardia is found everywhere in the city regardless of low-income, high-income or floating communities, according to studies.

The studies, done jointly by scientists of the ICDDR,B and Emory University, USA, were presented at the 15th Asian Conference on Diarrhoeal Disease and Nutrition in the capital on Thursday.

Presenting the study findings, lead researcher and ICDDR,B scientist Mahbubur Rahman said that there was serious oversight regarding vegetables and street foods consumption in the government policy, also lacking in the risk mitigation factors.

‘Lack of understanding about the sources of pathogens in the urban environment makes us vulnerable to the enteric diseases,’ he said.

The studies—done between April 2017 to January 2018 and April to October 2019—showed that vegetable products likes carrot, brinjal, red amaranth and tomatoes available in the capital are highly contaminated with faecal pathogens.

Street foods like sliced fruits, jhal muri, chotpoti, vajavuji, achar, sharbat and ice cream in Dhaka are highly contaminated with Escherichia coli.

The studies came to their conclusions after assessing 1,000 samples collected from surface water, non-WASA water, soil, latrine swab, flood water, street foods, raw vegetables, WASA water, open drain and bathing water from communities in Dhaka.

All dominant pathways abound with high concentration of the pathogens, according to the studies.

Only 2 per cent of faecal wastes are channelled for treatment and only 0.3 per cent of them are treated before releasing in the environment, according to them.

About 41 per cent of water supplied by the city authorities was contaminated by Escherichia coli at the source while 61 per cent of water was contaminated at the water source premises, the studies said.

The studies suggested long term, integrated and sustainable programmes to address the serious public health issue.

They also suggested continuous research to identify the sources and pathways of faecal contamination in the capital.

The ICDDR,B hosted the three-day-long international conference in the capital where the studies were presented.

About 450 global scientists, researchers and public health experts joined the conference and discussed the immune response, diagnosis, vaccination, prevention and preparedness to combat diseases.

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