American researchers have discovered that a germ strain found in E. coli, which causes painful urinary infections in women, could come from chickens.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, challenged the long suspected belief that urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by a person’s own E. coli bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
When researchers investigated further, they discovered that E. coli found in poultry was strikingly similar to those found in women.
Researchers analysed 320 samples of genetic genomes of E. coli found in humans and compared them to E.coli in different types of meat, including beef and pork. They discovered the E. coli in chicken best matched that in women.
“Chicken may be a reservoir for the E. coli that cause infections like urinary tract infections,” study author Amee Manges said in a statement.
All samples had come directly from the birds rather than any risks of human contamination during the tests.
Researchers added that a major concern was the use of a new antibiotic E. coli resistance used in British farms called Extended-Spectrum Beta-Lactamase (ESBL).
This modern farming technique, although primarily used to halt the spread of E. coli among animals, could be making the situation worse in humans.
“We are concerned about the selection and amplification of drug-resistant E. coli on the farms because of improper or overuse of antimicrobials during food animal production,” explains Manges.
“As a consequence, the management of UTIs has become more complicated; the risks for treatment failure are higher and the cost of UTI treatment is increasing.”
According to the Soil Association, overuse of antibiotic administration in animals is failing to keep pace with the speed at which bacteria are adapting to resist them. Animals are given antibiotic resistance even if they aren’t ill, causing a ‘sickness-inducing environment’ in farms.
This means that it diminishes the effectiveness of human medicine, and in this case UTIs, where antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat severe UTI symptoms.
It is estimated that between five and 10% of UTIs contracted from ESBL antibiotics from meat in the UK and around 175m people are diagnosed with this condition worldwide.
Despite this information, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor, Sally Davies, has recently announced that new research and funding will go into antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals. The Soil Association is calling for a reduction in its use in livestock.
Urinary infections are very common in women in the UK, with half of women experiencing a UTI at least once in their lifetime,
Symptoms of a UTI include a painful, burning sensation when urinating, a need to urinate more often and pain the lower abdomen. A UTI usually develops when bacteria infect part of the urinary tracts.