New York, Aug 29: A strain of Escherichia coli (E.coli) found in retail chicken and turkey products may cause a wide range of urinary tract infections in people, a new study has found.
While it was known that E. coli could be passed from person-to-person in the community and in hospitals, the study, provided evidence that the bacterium lurking in fresh poultry products can be passed to people, leading to bladder infections and other serious conditions.
Researchers from the George Washington University, in the US, found that E.coli ST131 — the most common type infecting the people — was present in nearly 80 per cent of the 2,452 meat samples and in 72 per cent of the positive urine and blood cultures from patients in the study.
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 Lance B. Price, Professor from the varsity.
They also discovered that almost all of the E.coli ST131 on the poultry products belonged to a particular strain called ST131-H22 and carried genes that helps E.coli thrive in birds.
This same poultry-adapted strain was also found to be causing UTIs in people.
More than 80 per cent of UTIs are caused by E.coli, however, only a few strains are responsible for most of the serious infections.
For the study, published in the journal mBio, the team conducted a one-year longitudinal study where they analysed retail chicken, turkey and pork from Arizona.
According to Price, the findings underscore the importance of cooking poultry thoroughly and handling it carefully in the kitchen.
Many people think of urinary tract infections (UTIs) as a common and minor annoyance, but invasive UTIs that involve the kidneys or blood can be life-threatening.