High level of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause food poisoning

More than 40% of bacteria found in chicken on sale in Switzerland is resistant to at least one antibiotic, says research published this week in BMC Public Health. The findings could have implications for treating food poisoning.

The bacteria, Campylobacter, causes between 5 and 14 percent of all diarrhoeal illness worldwide. The most common sources of infection are inadequately cooked meat, particularly poultry, unpasteurised milk and contaminated drinking water. The illness normally clears up after a week, without treatment. But small children and people with a weakened immune system often take antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading to the bloodstream and causing life threatening septicaemia.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office collected raw poultry meat samples from 122 retail outlets across Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and tested their antibiotic resistance. From 415 meat samples, they isolated 91 strains of Campylobacter, 59% of which were sensitive to all the antibiotics tested.

19 strains (22%) were resistant to one antibiotic, 9 strains (10%) to two antibiotics, and 8 strains (9%) were resistant to at least three antibiotics. Two strains were resistant to five antibiotics. One of these showed resistance to ciprofloxacin, tetracycline and erythromycin the most important antibiotics for treating Campylobacter infection in humans.

Meat was more likely to be infected with Campylobacter if it was kept chilled, rather than frozen. However, the storage conditions did not affect the frequency of antibiotic resistance in the bacteria.

Although the frequency of antibiotic resistance in Switzerland may seem high, meat produced in the country was, in fact, less likely to be infected with antibiotic resistant Campylobacter than meat produced elsewhere. Jrg Danuser commented: "The level of antibiotic resistance in Campylobacter depends on the amount of antibiotics that the chickens received. Maybe in

Contact: Gemma Bradley
BioMed Central

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