Want to avoid E. coli? The most preventative measure is washing your hands, according to a new report.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia in England recently conducted a study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, to explore how antibiotic-resistant E. coli spreads.
Although E. coli is a bacteria naturally carried in the human gut, some strains can cause food poisoning, urinary tract infections and bloodstream infections.
For the assessment, the team reviewed 20,000 human fecal samples and 300 blood samples. They also examined sewage samples, animal slurry, fruits, salads and meats including beef, pork and chicken.
After analyzing the results, they found there was little crossover between strains from humans, chickens and cattle. In fact, the majority of infections were not from meats but from human to human contact.
“The great majority of strains of ESBL-E. coli causing human infections aren’t coming from eating chicken, or anything else in the food chain,” lead author David Livermore said in a statement. “The likeliest route of transmission for ESBL-E. coli is directly from human to human, with fecal particles from one person reaching the mouth of another.
Although they acknowlegded you can get sick from under-cooked meats, they said washing your hands after using the bathroom is the best way to avoid E. coli infections.
“We need to carry on cooking chicken well and never to alternately handle raw meat and salad. There are plenty of important food-poisoning bacteria, including other strains of E. coli, that do go down the food chain,” Livermore explained. “But here — in the case of ESBL-E. coli — it’s much more important to wash your hands after going to the toilet.”
The scientists stressed the importance of having good hygiene especially in care homes, because the most severe cases of E. coli infections occur among the elderly.
“In order to tackle antibiotic resistance, we not only need to drive down inappropriate prescribing, but reduce infections in the first place,” coauthor Neil Woodford concluded. “In order to limit serious, antibiotic resistant E. coli bloodstream infections, we must focus on thorough hand washing and good infection control, as well as the effective management of urinary tract infections.”
Want to learn more about the findings? Take a look at the full assessment here.
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