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The genus Yersinia is a member of the Enterobacteriaceae family that includes eleven species. Y enterocolitica is most important as a cause of foodborne illness. Yersinia enterocolitica is a small pleomorphic gram-negative, non-spore-forming coccobacillus. The organism has been classified into 6 biotypes and into more than 60 serotypes. The serotypes most often associated with human disease are 0:3, 0:5, 0:8, 0:9, 0:13, and 0:27. Human illness can occur after consumption of Y enterocolitica-contaminated food, animal waste, and unchlorinated water.1,2This organism may survive and grow during refrigerated storage.


The organism has a large animal reservoir, including cattle, sheep, swine, dogs, cats, horses, rodents, and lagomorphs. Streams, lakes, and drinking water have all been contaminated.


Yersinia enterocolitica has been isolated from humans worldwide, but most commonly in cooler climates. The organism has a large animal reservoir, including cattle, sheep, swine, dogs, cats, horses, rodents, and lagomorphs. Streams, lakes, and drinking water have all been contaminated. The most common mode of transmission is ingestion of contaminated food, milk, or water.3 Occasional outbreaks have been reported within families or institutions. Common source outbreaks have been traced to raw milk, contaminated pasteurized milk, and foods prepared with contaminated water. Person-to-person transmission has not been conclusively proven but probably occurs. Seasonal isolation rates of Yersinia indicate that it is more prevalent as a cause of enteritis in winter months in the United States.4,5 Most reported cases have been from Canada, Europe, and the United States. Clustering of infections during fall and winter has been reported in northern Europe.1 Because pigs are often infected, persons who eat or handle pork are at risk of getting infected. Diarrheal illness in infants caused by Y enterocolitica 0:3 in the United States is associated with household preparation of raw pork intestines (chitterlings).6 In one study 20 (62%) of 32 children with Y enterocolitica diarrheal illness had been exposed to raw pork intestines in the 2 weeks before onset. Affected infants were probably exposed to infection by their caretakers who were cleaning the chitterlings while caring for the infants.African American infants have the highest incidence of infection in the United States.7 Among 142 pediatric patients with Y enterocolitica enteritis, 141 were black, 85% were under age 1, and 84 presented during November to January.7 Rarely, severe infections have been transmitted from blood transfusions.8 Some blood donors may occasionally have transient occult Y enterocolitica bacteremia at the time of donation, and the organism can multiply to high concentrations in refrigerated blood. One instance of perinatal transmission has been reported.


The frequency of isolation of Y enterocolitica from stools of patients with diarrhea is reported to be 1% to 3% in a number of studies. In one Canadian report, it was recovered in 2.8% of stool cultures from 6364 children with diarrheal illnesses over a 15-month period. It was isolated less often than Salmonella, but more commonly ...

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