A UNCG researcher is among an international team of scientists who may have uncovered the mystery behind one of China’s worst food safety scandals, which took the lives of at least six infants fed powdered milk deliberately tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.
Dr. Wei Jia, a nutrition professor and co-director of UNCG’s Center for Translational Biomedical Research in Kannapolis, along with scientists in China and London, released findings last week that microbes present in the gut can affect the severity of kidney disease brought on by melamine poisoning. News media around the world covered the story last week.
In 2008, nearly 300,000 Chinese children were hospitalized with kidney disease brought on by supplies of powdered milk illegally contaminated with melamine to simulate higher nitrogen content. Although melamine was known to combine with uric acid in the children’s bodies to produce harmful kidney stones, the details of the reaction were not well understood or the fact that the presence of specific gut microbes changed the risk.
By Betsi Robinson
Visual: Dr. Wei Jia