A new study has found that bacteria found in meat are the likely cause of over half a million urinary tract infections (UTIs) in the US every year. Of the 6-8m UTIs caused by E coli bacteria in the US every year, between 480,000 and 640,000 could be linked to strains known as FZECs commonly found in meat. The study, published in Science Direct under the title “Using source-associated mobile genetic elements to identify zoonotic extraintestinal E. coli infections”, found that 8% of the UTIs were caused by E coli from local US meat samples, which translates into the national figures mentioned of UTIs caused by E coli originating from those meats.

Lance Price, professor at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington DC, and one of the researchers of the study, said to the Guardian: “At the end of the year we sequenced the E coli we’d collected, and because I learned that E coli adapt to different hosts – people, chickens, whatever – by pulling in packets of DNA, we could look at the DNA packets and work out their statistical relation to each host … [and then] we could estimate the proportion of UTI E coli coming from food animals…When you are packing animals together very tightly, pigs or poultry, and buying them from the same breeder, yes, the dangerous strain of E coli is going to spread very quickly.” It is a well-known fact that one of the causes of bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics is the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms as without them it would not be possible to keep so many animals cramped together. This study shows that these bacteria end up in the food chain and getting people ill, who are more difficult to treat due to such antibiotic resistance.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.