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Food Poisoning

Author: RxPG, Posted on Wednesday, October 06 @ 18:00:23 IST by RxPG  

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Thirty-eight children consumed eatables procured from a single source at a picnic party. Twenty children developed abdominal cramps followed by vomiting and watery diarrhea 6-10 hours after the party. The most likely etiology for the outbreak is:

1. Rotavirus infection.
2. Entero-toxigenic E.Coli infection
3. Staphylococcol toxin.
4. Claustridium perfringens infection.


4. Claustridium perfringens infection.


Nelson is the book referred because we have 38 children going to the picnic
Nelson's Text book of Paediatrics. 15th Edition Chapter 194 Anaerobic Infection








Let us dissect this question

  • 20 out of /38 (large number)
  • Children – Look at Nelson (or Achar or Ghai ) Don’t go for Harrison or CMDT !!!)
  • Single source /
  • Picnic
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarhhoea   
  • 6 - 10 hours       

By the way in ADULTS ( not for this question, but as a general rule

C. perfringens food poisoning develops –

8 to 24 hrs after the consumption of contaminated food.

Fever and vomiting are uncommon - Harrison's,15th Pg-923

S. aureus food poisoning develops –

2 to 6 hrs after the consumption of contaminated food.

Crampy abdominal pains, vomiting  & diarrhoea are the usual features - Harrison's,15th,Pg-893

So if you get these features in an adult, the time favours Clostridium and the Presence of Vomiting Staph !!!

But our question deals with CHILDREN and so we are relieved to have one answer





Our Question


Time of Onset

Harrison(as quotee above)

Anathanarayanan’s Microbiology(Staph - within 6 hours) as well as

CMDT say that staph occurs within 6 hours…… in fact CMDT 42nd Edition (2002) Table 30.3 and in the text 2 pages before it classify  food poisoning based on Incubation period and in Staph that occurs because of preformed  toxin

Nelson :

6 - 10 hours


favours Cl.perfinge

rules out Staph

Watery Diarhhoea

+ in CMDT

+++ in CMDT

Watery diarhhoea



Starts with vomiting

Nelson : Nausea 25 %

              Emesis 15 %

CMDT : Vomiting may occur

Vomiting following cramps


abdominal cramps



Nelson : Cramps



Single source/ > 1 child



Fodd Poisoning

Can be both

Fever Uncommon



No fever





We have to refer Nelson first and then Harrison


Now you see that only one point from Harrison favors Staph ……….. that is presence of vomiting in Adult….. but in Paediatric age group according to Nelson, nausea and vomiting are present !!!! that means the symptoms in the 38 CHILDREN were due to Cl.perfinges

  1. Rotaviruses cause disease in virtually all mammals and birds. The virus is a wheel-like, double-shelled icosahedron containing 11 segments of double-stranded RNA.
  2. Entero-toxigenic E.Coli infection
  3. Staphylococcol Food poisoning  may be caused by ingestion of enterotoxins preformed by staphylococci contaminating foods. Two to 7 hr after ingestion of the toxin, sudden, severe vomiting begins. (Nelson's Text book of Paediatrics. 15th   Edition Chapter 174.1)
  4. Claustridium perfringens infection is the correct answer

  • Enterotoxin-producing C. perfringens type A causes a mild and common form of food poisoning.
  • The enterotoxin,
    • a structural component of the spore coat,
    • is a protein with a molecular weight of 35,000 daltons,
    • is resistant to trypsin digestion,
    • binds to a brush border membrane receptor,
    • disrupts cell integrity, and
    • causes cell death.
  • Food poisoning follows ingestion of
    • contaminated cooked meats,
    • poultry,
    • stew,
    • meat pies, and
    • gravies that have undergone long periods of slow cooling and ambient temperature storage, which facilitate spore survival.
    • Such food usually contains at least 108 enterotoxin-producing Clostridium organisms, which during intestinal passage proliferate and produce toxin.
  • Clinical manifestations include
    • diarrhea (90%),
    • abdominal cramps (80%),
    • nausea (25%),
    • emesis (15%), and
    • fever (25%) with
    • spontaneous resolution in 6–24 hr.
  • The incubation period is
    • brief (7–15 hr), and
  • History may reveal a
    • common exposure with others who are ill.
  • The diagnosis is confirmed by
    • detection of 105 or more C. perfringens in the food source,
    • at least 106 organisms/g stool within 48 hr of onset, and
    • detection of enterotoxin with ELISA or other immunoassay.
  • The differential diagnosis includes food poisoning from
    • preformed toxins (S. aureus, B. cereus, C. botulinum),
    • in vivo toxin generation (B. cereus, toxigenic E. coli),
    • invasive enteric pathogens (C. jejuni, Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, Yersinia),
    • heavy metals (copper, tin, zinc),
    • scombroid (histamine), and
    • mushrooms.
  • Treatment comprises
    • supportive care and
    • fluid and electrolyte replacement for gastrointestinal losses caused by this self-limited enterotoxemia.
Clinical Syndromes.
Several clinical syndromes follow the ingestion of contaminated food or water, (Nelson's Text book of Paediatrics. 15th Edition Chapter 171 )

  • Nausea and vomiting within 6 hr
    • Toxins that produce direct gastric irritation,
      • Such as heavy metals, or with
    • Preformed toxins of
      • B. cereus (B. cereus also produces an enterotoxin )or
      • S. aureus;;
  • Paresthesia within 6 hr; Paresthesias after a brief incubation period are suggestive of
    • scombroid (histamine fish poisoning),
    • paralytic or neurotoxic shellfish poisoning,
    • Chinese restaurant syndrome (monosodium glutamate poisoning),
    • niacin poisoning, or
    • ciguatera fish poisoning
  • Neurologic and gastrointestinal symptoms within 2 hr;
    • ingestion of toxic mushrooms
      • parasympathetic hyperactivity,
      • confusion,
      • visual disturbances,
      • and hallucinations to
      • hepatic or
      • hepatorenal failure, which occurs after a 6-24 hr incubation period.
  • Abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea within 16–48 hr;
    • 8–16 hr incubation period
      • enterotoxin-producing Clostridium perfringens and
      • B. cereus.
  • Fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea within 16–72 hr;
    • Salmonella,
    • Shigella,
    • C. jejuni,
    • Y. enterocolitica, and
    • enteroinvasive E. coli are associated with diarrhea, which may contain fecal leukocytes, abdominal cramps, and fever, although these organisms can cause watery diarrhea without fever.
  • Abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea without fever within 72–120 hr;
    • enterohemorrhagic E. coli, such as E. coli 0157:H7. 
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome 
    • enterohemorrhagic E. coli.
  • Neurologic signs and symptoms within 6–24 hr; and nausea, vomiting, and paralysis within 18–48 hr
    • blurred vision,
    • dry mouth,
    • dysarthria,
    • diplopia, or
    • descending paralysis
should suggest C. botulinum as the cause


Harrison was also quoted (inspite of this being a PURELY Paediatric Question) so that you know the facts when (in future competitive exams) adult suffer from food poisoning

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