Most urinary tract infections in the U.S. may be caused by chicken meat, according to a surprising new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Urinary infections were long believed to be tied to E. coli bacteria in a person’s own gut. But a new CDC examination of the bacterial strains in women diagnosed with urinary infections found they closely matched those of E. coli found in retail chicken meat.
What’s more, the bacteria in the meat was not a result of contamination, but appeared to come from the chickens themselves.
CDC researchers said strains of E. coli from beef and pork, which they also analyzed, were less likely to match the strains that cause infections.
“The management of UTIs [urinary tract infections], which was previously straightforward, has become more complicated,” the CDC said, in reporting the findings on its Website. “The risks for treatment failure are higher, and the cost of UTI treatment is increasing.”
UTIs are typically the result of bacteria entering the body’s urinary system, which is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.
Canadian researchers at McGill University have previously reported that E. coli, the most common cause of UTIs, can originate in food and that chicken is the most likely culprit.
For the new study, CDC researchers tested bacterial strains from 320 samples of chicken, beef and pork and compared them to those supplied by 475 women with UTIs.
“The results suggest that potential [E. coli] transmission from food animal sources is likely to be implicated in human infections and that chicken is a major reservoir,” they wrote. “The possibility that [E. coli] causing UTIs and other extraintestinal infections in humans could originate from a food animal reservoir raises public health concern. New interventions may be needed to reduce the level of food contamination and risk for transmission.”