Is Chicken to Blame for Millions of UTIs?

Move over pink slime! We have bad news for those of you who think chicken is a healthier alternative to red meat. There are between six and eight million urinary tract infections (UTIs) in the United States each year. New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that 85 percent (or between five and seven million cases per year) are caused by E. coli bacteria found in chicken. Scientists previously believed UTIs were caused by bacteria from our own gastrointestinal tracts.

Researchers analyzed the genomes of E. coli from women who were suffering from UTIs and compared them to the E. coli genomes from chicken, pork and red meat. They found that the strains of bacteria from the UTIs exactly matched those from chicken.

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The study team believes that modern farming methods could be making matters worse. Amee Manges, the study’s lead author noted: “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.”

He also pointed to an increase in the emergence of drug-resistant E. coli over the past decade, noting that the management of UTIs has consequently become much more complicated. He noted: “the risks for treatment failure are higher, and the cost of UTI treatment is increasing.”

The study concludes by suggesting that a reduction in the use of antimicrobials on farms could lead to a reduction in drug-resistant infections in humans.

Umm…we have a better idea. How about telling people to keep chickens off their plate, huh?

Image Credit: chesbayprogram/Flickr