Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are often regarded as a common and minor problem, but UTIs involving the kidneys or blood can be life-threatening.
The majority of UTIs are caused by E. coli, but only a few E. coli strains cause the more serious infections.
Researchers already knew that people can pass E. coli to one another, but the current study has found that a number of E. coli strains occur in fresh poultry products and that one strain in particular can be passed to people, causing UTIs.
The study was led by researchers at George Washington University.
As reported in the journal mBio, senior author, Dr Lance Price and colleagues tested chicken, turkey and pork products found in all main groceries in Flagsta, Ariz and also analysed urine and blood samples taken from Flagsta Medical Center.
“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 Dr Price, Senior Author
The researchers found E. coli was present in almost 80% of 2,452 meat samples and in 72% of the samples taken from patients.
Out of the six strains of E. coli known to cause the majority of UTIs around the world, the researchers detected three strains in the meat samples tested, the majority of which were poultry products.
The strain that most commonly infected people was E. coli ST131.
After studying the genomes of the E. coli cells, Price and colleagues found that the ST131 present in poultry products was of a particular strain called ST131-H22 and contains genes that help the bacteria to thrive in birds.
That same strain was also found to be the one that led people to develop UTIs.
Professor Cindy Liu, first author, said, “This particular E. coli strain appears capable of thriving in poultry and causing disease in people. Poultry products could be an important vehicle for bacteria that can cause diseases other than diarrhoea.”
The study shows how important it is to ensure poultry is carefully handled and thoroughly cooked in the kitchen, adds Price.
Price and team are now trying to determine how many UTIs are caused by foodborne E. coli and are analysing not only ST131, but all strains of E. coli, “This is not an easy question to answer but an extremely important one,”he says.
Source: Medical News Net