A newly published study by US researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health found antibiotic-resistant strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae in meat that are very similar to those causing human infection.
The researchers isolated Klebisella pneumoniae from 47% of 508 samples of meat (chicken, turkey and pork) taken from retail stores in the city of Flagstaff and compared them with clinical isolates from blood and urine samples taken from people living in the same area. Their similarity based on antibiotic resistance, genetic relatedness and virulence was then assessed.
The results showed that isolates from meat were more likely to be multidrug resistant and resistant to tetracycline and gentamicin than those from clinical samples. It is suggested that this is a result of selective pressures caused by antibiotic use in meat production.
Approximately 10% of positive cultures from people with urinary tract or blood infections in the Flagstaff area were found to be Klebsiella strains, some of which were antibiotic-resistant. Whole genome DNA sequencing showed that some of these strains were virtually identical to isolates from meat and were also similarly virulent in mice.
The researchers conclude that retail meat is a potential vehicle for transmitting virulent, antibiotic-resistant K. pneumoniae from food animals to humans. “This research suggests that we can also pick up these bacteria from the food we eat,” commented study co-author James R. Johnson, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota.
The study findings are published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and can be accessed in full here.