Traces of GBS bacteria found in two types of raw fish: MOH

A snakehead fish

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued an advisory on Friday (July 24) asking food stallholders to temporarily suspend sale of raw fish dishes as traces of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) have been found in test samples of Song fish and Toman fish.

MOH said that it is working with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) to investigate the recent uptrend of GBS cases in Singapore.

The health ministry has received reports of 238 cases of GBS infections from public hospitals from January to June this year, a marked increase from the annual average of 150 cases over the past four years. It also noted that more than half of the patients are over 55 years old, similar to previous years.

AVA and NEA have been conducting field investigations at various locations, including sources and distribution chains of raw fish, while MOH has asked all hospitals to report GBS infections.

The authorities' preliminary findings showed that some samples of Song fish, also known as Asian Bighead Carp; and Toman fish, also known as Snakehead fish, contain traces of GBS.

Although there is no proven link between eating raw fish and serious GBS disease in humans to date, the analysis of a limited number of identified cases in Singapore has found an association between the consumption of raw fish and GBS infections.

However, MOH said that more cases will need to be studied for a more definite conclusion.

While investigations are on-going, vulnerable groups of people, especially young children, pregnant women, the elderly, or people with chronic illness should avoid eating raw food such as uncooked oysters and sashimi as a precautionary measure.

GBS is a common bacterium found in the human gut and urinary tract of about 15 per cent to 30 per cent of adults without causing disease. However, the bacterium may occasionally cause infections of the skin, joints, heart and brain.