Superbugs in chickens could be an underlying cause of antibiotic-resistant bladder infections in 8 million women, according to a new ABC News report.
In the ABC News investigation, McGill University researchers said their research suggests drug-resistant E. coli in chickens may be transferred to humans and manifest as the hard-to-treat bladder infections.
Antibiotics are usually given to chickens to promote growth and prevent disease before they're slaughtered and sold in stores, ABC News reported. explained how these antibiotics could contribute to drug-resistance:
Chickens are injected with antibiotics from day one to help them grow bigger and faster and protect them from diseases. The problem is that these are the same antibiotics sold in the U.S. for humans to treat bladder infections, among other conditions, which means our bodies eventually become resistant to the drugs because we're getting so much of it.
"What this new research shows is, we may in fact know where it's [the antibiotic-resistant bladder infections are] coming from. It may be coming from antibiotics used in agriculture," Maryn McKenna, a reporter for Food & Environment Reporting Network, which conducted the investigation with the network, told ABC News.
However, the National Chicken Council said that there is no proof that the drug-resistant bacteria that cause bladder infections actually came from the chickens. The council said in a statement:
"The studies in question make the assumption that humans carrying these E. coli acquired them from poultry. The strains did not originate in poultry and likely entered these farms from sources originating in human communities. Perhaps most importantly, the potential transmission of antibiotic resistant E. coli to humans says nothing about why these E. coli are antibiotic resistant in the first place. The resistances observed in these E. coli are common globally and are unlikely to be attributed to chickens given the few antibiotics available for use in poultry in the U.S."
McGill University researchers had previously reported in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that the E. coli in the chicken was much more genetically related to those of human urinary tract infections, compared with the E. coli in the beef and pork. That study included E. coli testing of 320 samples of beef, pork and chicken.
"We suspect that the transmission is occurring the same way other foodborne agents are transferred," study researcher Amee Manges, Ph.D., of McGill University, earlier told MedPage Today. That means transmission of the bacteria may occur when you don't handle food safely or properly, you have kitchen contamination or you undercook the chicken.
Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria, fungi or viruses infect the urinary tract, with bacteria being the most frequent cause of infection, according to the National Institutes of Health. The body is usually able to remove bacteria from the urinary tract, but sometimes they are able to live there and grow, causing an infection.
Bacteria found in the bowel are the usual culprits for UTIs, with E. coli causing most cases, the National Institutes of Health reported.