Natural Bacterial Pesticide
Turns Nasty In People
LONDON (Reuters) - A bacterium used as a natural pesticide on food and feed crops could cause serious infections in people, according to a report Wednesday. Bacillus thuringiensis helps plants naturally resist agricultural pests, but New Scientist magazine said French doctors had discovered it could harm humans after a soldier wounded in Bosnia developed a serious infection from a sub-type of the bacterium. Scientists at the World Health Organization and the Pasteur Institute in Paris identified the harmful sample of the bacterium as H34. When Eric Hernandez, a microbiologist at a military hospital near Paris, injected the strain into mice with weakened immune systems he found the bacteria became dangerous when exposed to blood. ``We think they destroy the walls of blood cells,'' Hernandez told the magazine. Most farmers spray their crops with different strains of the bacteria but French scientists have identified another strain used in commercial farm sprays that is also dangerous. Ecogen Inc, the U.S. company that markets the sprays, insists they are safe because the bacteria are not exposed to blood and not primed to infect wounds. ``There's such a long history of safe use since the 1960s,'' Ecogen's research director Jim Baum told the magazine.

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