Food Bacteria More Drug-Resistant in U.S., Europe, Study Suggests

August 7, 2006

The bacteria that cause a common food-borne illness show low drug resistance in Australia, unlike similar strains from the United States and Europe, a study has found.

Scientists behind the finding say Australia's de facto ban on certain antibiotics in poultry and other livestock helps explain why.

In the study, researchers analyzed samples of Campylobacter jejuni bacteria from 585 patients in five Australian states.

Scientists found that only 2 percent of the samples were resistant to ciprofloxacin, one of the group of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolonones.

By contrast, 18 percent of Campylobacter samples in U.S. patients are immune to fluoroquinolonones, which have been used in the U.S. to prevent or treat respiratory disease in poultry for a decade.

The study, led by Leanne Unicomb, a graduate student at Australian National University in Canberra, was published in the May issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

"The findings add to the growing body of evidence suggestive of the problems [of] using fluoroquinolonones in food-producing animals," Unicomb wrote in an email.

(See National Geographic magazine's "Food: How Safe?")

Rising Caseload

Campylobacter is the most common food-borne disease in the U.S. and many other industrialized countries.

People can contract the pathogen by consuming undercooked poultry or meat, raw milk, or contaminated water.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. In rare cases, the disease can trigger paralysis or death.

Continued on Next Page >>


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