The 2011 IMS Prize for Science and Technology has been won by Ms Inge Van Damme from Belgium for her research on the occurrence of human enteropathogenic Yersinia spp. in pigs and contamination of carcasses during slaughter. Inge Van Damme is a Master of Veterinary Medicine from Ghent University, and the work is part of her research for her Ph.D. thesis. She was judged the winner at the 57th ICoMST which was held in Ghent on 7th to 12th August 2011 .
Six internationally renowned scientists assisted the IMS in selecting the IMS prize winner from 42 short oral presentations and 201 posters. There was considerable discussion and debate over who should be the winner, which was a reflection of the high standard of the better presentations. At the end of the discussions it was unanimously agreed that the prize should be awarded to Inge Van Damme. She will be awarded the Prize of US $5000 at the 19th IMS World Meat Congress which will take place in Paris from 4-6 June 2012.
The following is an abstract of her work:
Human pathogenic Yersinia enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis typically cause enteric infections in humans, mainly young children. Pigs are the main animal reservoir for pathogenic Y. enterocolitica and infection in humans is often acquired by the consumption of contaminated pork. The aim of this work was to determine the contamination of pig carcasses with enteropathogenic Yersinia spp. in Belgium. Therefore, 180 pig carcasses were sampled in 9 different slaughterhouses. From each animal, tonsils, rectal content and carcass swabs were analysed for enteropathogenic Yersinia spp. using direct plating, selective enrichment and cold enrichment. All samples were taken after evisceration, but before chilling. Pathogenic Y. enterocolitica were isolated from the tonsils of 103 pigs (57.2%) and rectal contents of 36 pigs (20.0%). Twenty-eight pigs were positive for pathogenic Y. enterocolitica in both tonsils and rectal content, while 75 and 8 pigs were only Y. enterocolitica positive in tonsils and rectal content, respectively. All isolated Y. enterocolitica strains belonged to bioserotype 4/O:3. Tonsils and rectal content from 4 and 1 pig(s) were positive for Y. pseudotuberculosis, respectively. Regarding carcass samples, 76 (42.2%) pig carcasses were contaminated with enteropathogenic Yersinia spp. Pathogenic Y. enterocolitica were mostly recovered from the mandibular region (59/180), followed by the sternal region (31/180), medial site just before the sacrum (17/180), and pelvic duct (15/180). In conclusion, a high proportion of pigs carry pathogenic Yersinia spp. in their tonsils or intestines during slaughter. Moreover, a considerable number of pig carcasses is positive on one or more of the sampled carcass sites.