Narrator: This is Science Today. Due to our nation's aging baby boomers and longer life spans, by the year 2040, there could be three times more people over the age of eighty-five - many of whom are expected to reside in nursing homes. Food safety expert, Linda Harris of the University of California, Davis, says along with that sharp rise will be a comparable increase in food-borne illness, which includes E-coli.
Harris: Some of the worst outbreaks that we've ever seen with E-coli have actually been in nursing homes.
Narrator: That's because several aging factors - including suppression of the immune system and a high production of natural digestive acids - invite this type of infection in the elderly population.
Harris: When you consume organisms, a lot of them are killed simply by the high acidity of the stomach pH. So if you have a situation where the stomach pH is being increased, then you are at more risk because more of those organisms will make it to your intestinal track, allowing perhaps more time to produce toxins or do whatever damage they want to.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.