Scientists find bacteria from Dutch poultry linked to superbugs in people

04-07-2011 | | |

Bacteria on raw poultry meat in the Netherlands may be a source of superbugs in people, according to a study that suggests the use of antibiotics in food animals is causing life-saving drugs to lose their potency.

Multidrug-resistant bacteria were found in 80 percent of raw chicken bought from grocery stores in the southern Netherlands. When the researchers compared the germs with specimens collected from hospital patients, they found the predominant resistance genes were identical.
The findings, reported in the July edition of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, indicate drug-resistant bacteria in food are leading to harder-to-treat infections in people. “The Netherlands provides a good setting to monitor spread of drug resistance from an animal reservoir into the human population,” Ilse Overdevest, a physician in the microbiology laboratory at St. Elisabeth Hospital in Tilburg, and colleagues wrote.
Their research focused on a genetic component in bacteria that causes resistance to a range of antibiotics, including a class known as third-generation cephalosporins. These medicines are used to treat bacterial meningitis, pneumonia as well as some infections caused by E. coli and other so-called Gram- negative bacteria.

In the Dutch study, 262 samples of fresh chicken, beef, pork and ground meat were tested for drug resistance. Of 71 chicken samples tested, 80 percent carried bacteria producing an antibiotic-destroying enzyme known as ESBL. In comparison, ESBL- producing bacteria were found in fewer than 12 percent of the other meat types.

ESBL contamination of retail chicken meat in the Netherlands is a “plausible source” of the increase in multidrug-resistant infections in people, the authors said. “Most samples of retail chicken meat contain transmissible drug resistance genes in bacterial species that are part of the normal human intestinal flora,” they said. “This finding may have a profound effect on future treatment options for a wide range of infections.”
The Netherlands is reducing the volume of antibiotics used in food-animal production, according to Christianne Bruschke, chief veterinary officer in The Netherlands. The government aims for a 20 percent reduction from 2009 levels this year, with a 50 percent cut targeted by 2013, she said.
Source: Bloomberg


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