Nearly half a million UTIs in the US linked to E. coli in meat | Totally Vegan Buzz

Nearly half a million UTIs in the US linked to E. coli in meat

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“When you are packing animals together very tightly, pigs or poultry, and buying them from the same breeder, yes, the dangerous strain of E. coli is going to spread very quickly.”

 A new study has shown that E. coli from meat products may be behind more than half a million urinary tract infections in the United States each year.

The pathogen, which lives in the gut, is known to cause diarrhea, ‘but the concept of foodborne E. coli causing urinary tract infections seemed strange’, so scientists from GW’s Milken Institute School of Public Health examined FZECs (food-borne zoonotic E. coli) to determine how the UTI-causing strain of E. coli entered the gut in the first place.

The results have been published online in the journal One Health.

“We’re used to the idea that foodborne E. coli can cause outbreaks of diarrhea, but the concept of foodborne E. coli causing urinary tract infections seems strange—that is, until you recognize that raw meat is often riddled with the E. coli strains that cause these infections,” said Lance Price, lead author of the study, professor of environmental and occupational health, and founder and co-director of the GW Antibiotic Resistance Action Center.

Study

The team spent one year examining urine and blood samples from 1,188 patients hospitalized for UTIs in Flagstaff, Arizona, as well as 1,923 samples of E. coli from raw chicken, turkey, and pork bought at the local supermarkets.

Using a novel genomic approach to trace the origin of E. coli infections, they found that eight percent of UTIs were caused by E. coli found in meat products sold in the local area. When scaled for a national figure, it meant that between 480,000 and 640,000 cases could be linked to meat consumption.

 “Our study provides compelling evidence that dangerous E. coli strains are making their way from food animals to people through the food supply and making people sick–sometimes really sick,” Price said.

UTI burden

UTI symptoms include an urgent need to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, pressure or pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic region, cloudy or blood-tinged urine, and urine with a strong odour.

While UTIs are common, the bacteria from the bladder can reach the kidneys, which may lead to more serious illnesses, such as bladder infections.

“People often dismiss bladder infections as minor annoyances, but the bladder is a major gateway to patients’ kidneys and bloodstream,” co-author and GWU Associate Professor Cindy Liu said.

E. coli bloodstream infections kill between 36,000 and 40,000 people in the US every year, and researchers fear that the number of bloodstream infections that began as UTIs is likely underestimated.

E. coli and meat

The number of antibiotic resistant E. coli strains has grown in recent years, which could further exacerbate the problem of people dying from bloodstream infections.

It is believed that industrial animal farming and an overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry are partly responsible for the alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the food supply.

“When you are packing animals together very tightly, pigs or poultry, and buying them from the same breeder, yes, the dangerous strain of E. coli is going to spread very quickly,” Price told the Guardian.

This isn’t the first study to find an association between E. coli found in raw meat and UTIs.

 A 2012 study by Canadian researchers, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, found strains of E. coli bacteria causing urinary tract infections (UTI).

Further study findings revealed that turkey and chicken meat were significantly more likely to contain these harmful bacteria than pork and beef.

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