In recent years, the Netherlands has seen an increase in serious gastric infections requiring hospital admission. It is important to ascertain the causes. More detailed research into the most common pathogens, such as Toxoplasma, Norovirus, Salmonella and Campylobacter is needed. RIVM is actively involved in this field.
One of the most important foodborne pathogens in the Netherlands is Campylobacter spp. This pathogen caused about 100,000 foodborne illnesses in the Netherlands in 2012. This number had increased continuously from 2003 onwards, without a clear cause. In the same period, the number of prescriptions for medication that suppresses acid production in the stomach (Proton Pump Inhibitors or PPI) increased continuously as well. Scientists at RIVM examined whether there was a connection between the two trends and found that to be the case. Gastric acid is one of the first barriers in humans to kill ingested bacteria because most bacteria cannot tolerate a low pH. Increasing the pH by medication likely makes this barrier less effective and the individual possibly more sensitive to infection. PPI do have a strong medical advantage when prescribed for a good cause – far outweighing the downside of having gastroenteritis – for which RIVM stresses the importance of good hygiene when preparing meals.