fresh chicken and turkey products can be passed onto people, leading to
‘A particular E. coli strain that exists both in poultry products and in urine and blood cultures of humans with urinary tract infections has been discovered, proving that the strain is responsible for the severe disease.’
UTIs can be invasive and sometimes, can involve the kidneys or blood.
These kind of infections are life-threatening. While E. coli
causes more than 80
percent of UTIs, only a few strains are responsible for most of the severe
strains infect humans via contaminated meat and can cause UTIs has been proposed decades earlier. Much after that, two
separate UTI outbreaks in Denmark, Canada, and the United States were
postulated to have been caused by foodborne E. coli
evidence to this proposal.
Following that, many studies
have shown that extraintestinal pathogenic E. Coli
strains routinely grow in food
animals and contaminate the food supply. The likely link between foodborne E. coli
and human UTIs emphasizes the public health
relevance of using antibiotics in food animal production.
The E. coli sequence type 131
(ST131) strain has emerged rapidly to become the most common extraintestinal
pathogenic or disease causing E.
clones in circulation
today. It can
travel from the bladder to the blood and kills thousands of people in the U.S.
Previous studies suggested that humans could not have gained exposure to
the ST131 strain from retail meat. However, these studies were too narrowly
focused and looked extensively only at multidrug-resistant ST131 strains, which
typically have a different version of the gene.
current study led by Lance B. Price, PhD, director of the Antibiotic Resistance
Action Center (ARAC) based at the George Washington University Milken Institute
School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH), and run by a multi-center
research team shows that E.
ST131 exists as multiple strains among which one particular
strain may pass on from contaminated bird to people.
research team conducted
a study where they collected data from the subjects repeatedly over one year.
During this time, they analyzed retail chicken, turkey, and pork bought from
every big grocery chain in Flagstaff, Arizona. In the same year, they also
collected and analyzed blood and urine samples from patients who visited the
only major hospital in Flagstaff.
coli was present in nearly 80 % of the 2,452 meat
coli was present in 72 % of the positive urine and
blood cultures from patients
coli ST131 was the most common strain infecting
people and the one present on the meat samples
Next, the team wanted to see how closely related the bacteria present in
human and the meat were to one another, or, importantly whether people had
acquired them from eating the poultry.
this, the team studied the genomes of the E. coli
cells. Lurking in all of
the poultry products was a particular strain called ST131-H22 that carried
genes that helpsE. coli
thrive in birds. The strain coincided with the one
causing UTIs in people.
"In the past, we could say that E. coli
from people and poultry were related to one
another, but with this study, we can more confidently say that the E. coli
went from poultry to
people and not vice versa," said Price, who is also a Professor of
Environmental and Occupational Health at Milken Institute SPH.
The study suggests poultry products might need to be routinely tested for the kind of E. coli strains that can cause
UTIs, and emphasize on cooking poultry thoroughly and be handling it carefully
in the kitchen.
"This particular E. coli strain appears capable of thriving in
poultry and causing disease in people," said Cindy Liu, MD, MPH, PhD,
first author of the paper and chief medical officer at ARAC. "Poultry products
could be an important vehicle for bacteria that can cause diseases other than
The team is next working to measure what proportion of
urinary tract infections might be caused by foodborne E. coli
by looking at strains apart
from ST131. Reference :
- Liu CM, Stegger M, Aziz M, Johnson TJ, Waits K, Nordstrom L, Gauld L, Weaver B, Rolland D, Statham S, Horwinski J, Sariya S, Davis GS, Sokurenko E, Keim P, Johnson JR, Price LB., "Escherichia coli ST131-H22 as a foodborne uropathogen". (2018) mBio 9:e00470-18. - (https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00470-18.)