Issues with food safety usually involve well-known bacteria like Campylobacter, Salmonella and Listeria. Researchers have found, however, that a disease-causing bacteria called Klebsiella pneumoniae can also be contracted through pork, chicken and turkey sold in grocery stores.
In a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers from the Milken Institute School of Public Health, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Flagstaff Medical Center, the Statens Serum Institut, the VA Healthcare System and the University of Minnesota teamed up to explore of K. pneumoniae is associated with a number of clinical infections and may be acquired through food sources.
"This study is the first to suggest that consumers can be exposed to potentially dangerous Klebsiella from contaminated meat," said Lance Price, the lead author for the study, adding that the U.S. government's focus on popular bacterial species does not cover the full extent of pathogens thriving in food.
For the study, the researchers took samples of pork, chicken and turkey products sold in 2012 across major grocery stores located in Flagstaff, Arizona. Blood and urine tests were also carried out for Flagstaff residents diagnosed with the infection at the time.
After all samples were analyzed, the researchers discovered that out of the 508 meat products they sampled, 47 percent harbored Klebsiella. At the same time, a lot of the bacteria's strains recovered were antibiotic-resistant.
Price explained that food animals are often given antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick and to boost growth rates. Unfortunately, the practice creates ideal conditions for resistant Klebsiella strains to emerge.
Aside from determining that Klebsiella is indeed present in meat products, the researchers also found that out of 1,728 positive cultures from patients with blood or urinary tract infections in Flagstaff, 10 percent were Klebsiella strains. Using DNA sequencing, the researchers compared the Klebsiella strains from the grocery samples to those identified in the cultures and found that some of the isolate pairs were almost identical.
Price lately started the Milken Institute SPH's Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, saying that the study is one of the reasons the facility was launched. He reiterated that stopping the overuse of antibiotics is a major move towards protecting public health.
The study received funding support from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center. Other authors include: Gregg Davis, Cindy Liu, Kara Waits, James Johnson, Lora Nordstrom, Mark Stegger, Brett Weaver, Stephen Porter, Maliha Aziz, Joseph Horwinski, Lori Gauld, Rick Bigler and Heidi Grande.
Photo: Brett Lohmayer | Flickr