Research Roundup: foodbourne illnesses and stopping cancer cells

University of Minnesota researchers published several studies throughout the month of November; here’s a look at some of them.

Nikki Pederson

University of Minnesota researchers released several studies in the past month, focusing on issues like foodborne illnesses, dermatologic care for sexual and gender minority patients and preventing the spread of cancer cells.

Foodborne illnesses and the effect of posting letter grades for restaurants

A study published this month found salmonella infections declined in New York City after restaurants were required to publicly post inspection grades.  

The study, conducted by University researchers, compared salmonella infection rates in New York City with those in the rest of New York state before and after implementation of a letter grade system for restaurant inspections in New York City. After the city began requiring restaurants to post those grades, there was a 5.3 percent decline per year in salmonella infections in New York City compared with the rest of the state.

New York does not have a statewide policy for reporting restaurant inspection results. However, in 2005, New York City began using a point-scoring system for food service inspections, and a few years later they implemented a letter grade program that converted these scores into rankings of A, B, C or grade pending. The City required establishments to post a sign with the letter grade in its window so that consumers could see it before entering. 

Each year, an estimated 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illness like salmonella in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Improving dermatologic care for sexual and gender minority patients

An article written by University researchers advocates for routine collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data in dermatology to better recognize the different health needs that patients require.

According to the article, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities are impacted by unique health disparities. These imbalances can be reduced if physicians are aware that a patient belongs to a sexual minority group, like LGBT, and then provide care, the article states.

“It’s a very easy sort of fix to integrate into practices in a wide variety of settings,” said Matthew Mansh, a University Medical School resident and author on the article. Mansch said he hopes the information will allow physicians to become better doctors. 

“Essentially, the information itself will empower the physicians to provide better care to patients,” he said.

Gay and bisexual men, for example, are more likely to report a history of melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer and indoor tanning, the article states. Gay and bisexual men and women with acne are also more likely to report depression and suicidal ideation, according to the article.

Stopping cancer cells from moving and spreading

Biomedical engineers at the University studied how breast cancer cells move and how certain medicines can stop those cells from spreading, which could impact people receiving cancer treatment.

The researchers used a micro-environment to mimic how cancer cells behave in a tumor and found the cells changed their movements or stopped completely when treated with types of medicines. 

Directed cell migration is necessary for different physiological processes, including embryonic development, immune system functions and tissue repair. 

Metastasis, a term for cancer that spreads to a different part of the body from where it started, most commonly develops when cancer cells break away from the main tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

It is estimated that metastasis is responsible for about 90 percent of cancer deaths.