Health In Focus
  • Contaminated retail poultry products have been detected to have the same E. Coli strain as humans who are sick with urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • The findings prove that E. coli from infected poultry can cause UTIs in humans
  • More stringent practices on testing and cooking poultry might help cut down on infections

Escherichia coli (E. coli) strain found in retail poultry products may cause a wide range of infections in people, according to a study named Escherichia coli ST131-H22 as a Foodborne Uropathogen" published in the American Society for Microbiology's open access journal mBio.

In this study, the research team has uncovered that the E. coli lurking in fresh chicken and turkey products can be passed onto people, leading to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other severe conditions.
E. Coli from Infected Poultry can Cause Urinary Tract Infection

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 infections.

E. coli 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 strain adding 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. coli clones in circulation today. It can travel from the bladder to the blood and kills thousands of people in the U.S. each year.

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.

The 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. coli ST131 exists as multiple strains among which one particular strain may pass on from contaminated bird to people.

The 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.
  • E. coli was present in nearly 80 % of the 2,452 meat samples
  • E. coli was present in 72 % of the positive urine and blood cultures from patients
  • E. 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.

For 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 diarrhea."

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 :
  1. 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. - (

Source: Medindia

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