We normally think of Salmonella as affecting food, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it's also being found in kratom, a plant that mimics the effects of opioids.
According to a bulletin from the CDC, a multistate Salmonella outbreak has been traced to supplements made from the plant. The outbreak, which began in October, has resulted in at least 11 people being admitted to hospitals for treatment, but no deaths have been reported.
Health researchers traced the cases to kratom when they sequenced DNA of Salmonella samples collected from patients around the country. Because the samples all had the same genetic makeup, the researchers concluded that they all came from the same source.
"At this time, CDC recommends that people not consume kratom in any form because it could be contaminated with Salmonella," the CDC advised in its bulletin.
Kratom has been in the news lately since its advocates view it as a way to treat pain without using highly addictive opioid drugs. In October 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was poised to criminalize use of the plant, but it backed away from that position after facing Congressional opposition and a social media storm.
But Washington officialdom remains skeptical. Earlier this month, Food and Drug Administrator Scott Gottlieb warned consumers about kratom, saying an FDA analysis shows compounds in the plant act like prescription-strength opioids.
"There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use," Gottlieb said. "The scientific data and adverse event reports have 'clearly revealed' that compounds in kratom render it more dangerous than 'just a plant.'"
The statement sparked an immediate backlash. The American Kratom Association consumer group called the FDA’s statement an "unprecedented abuse of science to create a new computer program that is clearly garbage in, garbage out avoiding the rules of the Controlled Substances Act and making unproven claims that have been proven to be untrue."
Kratom does, in fact, have some of the same effects on the brain as opioid drugs, which is why it is used by some as a natural pain reliever. The plant, which is native to Southeast Asia, is a legal commodity and can be purchased online.