New Research Links Foodborne E. Coli Infections to “Hundreds of Thousands” of UTIs in U.S.

Food Safety Magazine

A new study suggests that Escherichia coli infection from contaminated meat products may be responsible for hundreds of thousands of urinary tract infections in the U.S. each year.

A team of scientists led by George Washington University (GWU) Milken Institute School of Public Health researchers have developed a new genomic approach for tracking the origins of E. coli infections. Using this method, the team estimated that between 480,000 and 640,000 UTIs in the United States each year may be caused by foodborne E. coli strains.

According to GWU, E. coli is the most common cause of UTIs, causing upwards of 85 percent of cases each year. Women are at greater risk of developing UTIs, which can range from simple bladder infections to life-threatening bloodstream infections. At present, only specific types of diarrhea-causing E. coli, such as E. coli O157:H7, are rigorously monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the new findings from GWU suggest that other strains may also pose serious health risks.

In the study, researchers collected raw chicken, turkey, and pork from major grocery store chains in Flagstaff, Arizona, and isolated E. coli from the meat samples. Simultaneously, researchers collected urine and blood E. coli isolates from patients hospitalized at the Flagstaff Medical Center for UTIs.

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