A Dollop of Drug Resistance With That Chicken Salad Sandwich?

07/20/2012

Chicken factory photoBladder infections are marked by pain while urinating, constant urge to urinate, and absence of vaginal discharge. They impact nearly 60 percent of American women and antibiotic resistance means it could get a lot worse.

Now researchers looking into the cause of such drug resistance in painful bladder infections, have found evidence that it’s coming from poultry treated with antibiotics, according to an investigation on ABC and reported on Grist.

Poultry/Human Bridge

Americans love their chicken, we eat more of it than any other meat, which may prove problematic for antibiotic resistance. Grist cites, Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA:

[R]esearch in the United States, Canada, and Europe (published most recently this month, in June, and in March) has found close genetic matches between resistant E. coli collected from human patients and resistant strains found on chicken or turkey sold in supermarkets or collected from birds being slaughtered. The researchers contend that poultry — especially chicken, the low-cost, low-fat protein that Americans eat more than any other meat — is the bridge that allows resistant bacteria to move to humans, taking up residence in the body and sparking infections when conditions are right. Touching raw meat that contains the resistant bacteria, or coming into environmental contact with it — say, by eating lettuce that was cross-contaminated — are easy ways to become infected.

Over time, low doses of antibiotics allow for surviving bacteria to form a resistance and 80 percent of antibiotics are used in livestock. In the U.S. alone, 99,000 people die each year as a result of antibiotic resistant infections and as far as I’m concerned, this is only the beginning.

Chickens are known to be amongst the most contaminated of all the meat sources. By doing a test on their feathers, which is similar to that of human fingernails in the way it accumulates chemicals, researchers recently found caffeine, antihistamines, acetaminophen, fluroquinolones (banned antibiotics), arsenic, and even Prozac (in chicken imported from China). Fluroquinolones are illegal because they have been proven to cause antibiotic resistant superbugs.

Basically, healthful chicken may in fact be the most dangerous protein of all. 

Photo: Thinkstock

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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