Nearly half of US meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria, study suggests
April 15, 2011
PHOENIX -- There may be scores of drug-resistant bacteria lurking in your grocery meat aisle.
A study Friday by the Translational Genomics Research Institute, found that Staphylococcus aureus -- bacteria that causes most staph infections including skin infections, pneumonia and blood poisoning -- was present in meat and poultry from US grocery stores at "unexpectedly high rates."
Researchers found nearly half of the meat and poultry samples, 47 percent, were contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those bacteria, 52 percent, were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics.
For the study, researchers looked at 136 samples involving 80 brands of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 grocery stores in five cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Washington, D.C.
"For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial," Dr. Lance B. Price, senior author of the study, said in a statement. "The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today."
According to the findings published in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease, industrial farms, where food animals are steadily fed low doses of antibiotics, "are ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to humans."
"Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we have to treat Staph infections; 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," Price said.
Experts say although Staph can be killed with proper cooking, it still may pose a risk to people who handle food improperly or who cross-contaminate various ingredients in the kitchen.