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Retail Meat Linked to Urinary Tract Infections: Strong New Evidence

Chicken sold in supermarkets, restaurants and other outlets may place young women at risk of urinary tract infections (UTI), McGill researcher Amee Manges has discovered. Samples taken in the Montreal area between 2005 and 2007, in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the University of Guelph, provide strong new evidence that E. coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria originating from these food sources can cause common urinary tract infections.

Eating contaminated meat or food does not directly lead to a UTI. While some E. coli such as O157:H7 can cause serious intestinal disease, these E. coli bacteria can live in the intestine without causing problems. In women however, the bacteria can travel from the anus to the vagina and urethra during sex, which can lead to the infection.

The research team is also investigating whether livestock may be passing antimicrobial-resistant bacteria on to humans. This is due to the use of antibiotics to treat or prevent disease in the animals and to enhance their growth, which may lead them to develop resistance to the medication. When animals are slaughtered and their meat is processed for sale, the meat can be contaminated with these bacteria.

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