Meat in the U.S. may be widely contaminated with strains of drug-resistant bacteria, researchers reported Friday after testing 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey purchased at grocery stores.
Nearly half of the samples — 47% — contained strains of Staphylococcus aureus, the type of bacteria that most commonly causes staph infections. Of those bacteria, 52% were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
DNA testing suggested the animals were the source of contamination. Environmental health scientist Lance Price, the study's leader, said the animals most likely harbored these drug-resistant pathogens because antibiotics routinely are fed to livestock to promote growth and prevent disease in crowded pens on large farms.
But not just the animals and those who eat them will suffer the consequences:
But the bigger threat to public health is that widespread antibiotic use in livestock could make the drugs increasingly ineffective in humans, Price said.
The American Medical Assn., the World Health Organization and other medical groups have warned that the misuse of antibiotics in food animal production may be creating a serious problem for human health by fostering development of drug-resistant bacteria.
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