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Drug-resistant bacteria common in meat

Consumer Reports News: April 18, 2011 02:58 PM

Antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus are common in meat and poultry sold in U.S. grocery stores, suggests a recent study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute. The infections can cause illnesses from minor skin infections to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia or sepsis, among others.

Almost half of the 136 samples were contaminated, and more than half of those were resistant to at least three classes of common antibiotics. The government tests meat and poultry for four types of drug-resistant bacteria, but Staphylococcus aureus is not one of them. Proper cooking can kill it in meat, but improper food handling and cross-contamination can leave people at risk, especially vulnearble

The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, included 80 brands of beef, chicken, pork and turkey in 26 retail grocery stores across the U.S. Results suggested that the food animals were the major source of contamination. Densely stocked industrial farms, where animals are fed low doses of antibiotics, are ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that can move from animals to humans, the report says.

"Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we have to treat staph infections," said senior study author Lance Price, director of the Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health, said in a press release. "But when staph are resistant to three, four, five or even nine different antibiotics—like we saw in this study—that leaves physicians few options."

Staph infections: The important facts about MRSA

Recent meat recall due to staph


About Staphylococcus aureus [USDA]

Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in US Meat and Poultry [Clinical Infectious Diseases]

Maggie Shader

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