Levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on meat are on the riseS

Are you in the mood for a hair-raising read? Try sitting down with a copy of "The 2010 Retail Meat Report." Issued a few days ago as part of FDA's National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring system, the status update is packed with information on antibiotic-resistant foodborne organisms and where (i.e. what kinds of meat) you'll find them.

And the latest figures? Pretty darn unsettling.

The report, which you can peruse at your own leisure by clicking through to the FDA's website, is organized by foodborne organism and meat type.,

Over on Superbug, Wired's Maryn McKenna has pulled out a few examples from a number of cited cases "where either the percentage of bacteria that are antibiotic resistant, or the complexity of the resistance," exhibited a sharp increase. Two examples of foodborne bugs that you're probably familiar with are Salmonella and E. coli. McKenna quotes from the report:

For Salmonella:

  • Third-generation cephalosporin resistance rose in chicken breast (10–34.5%) and ground turkey (8.1–16.3%) isolates from 2002 to 2010.
  • There were significant increases in ampicillin resistance among chicken breast (16.7–39.2%) and ground turkey isolates (16.2–48%).
  • 43.3% of chicken breast isolates were resistant to ≥ 3 antimicrobial classes in 2010 compared to 33.7% in ground turkey.
  • More than 29% of chicken breast isolates showed resistance to ≥ 5 classes in 2010.

For E. coli:

  • Ceftriaxone resistance among E. coli isolates from chicken breast is consistently higher than any other retail meat tested.
  • From 2002–2005, nalidixic acid resistance in E. coli from chicken breast increased from 2.8–6.6% and increased in ground turkey from 4.3–10.4%. Since the fluoroquinolone ban in September 2005, resistance has decreased to 3.6% in chicken breast and 2.7% in ground turkey.
  • Gentamicin resistance is much higher in retail poultry isolates (> 20%) than ground beef and pork chop isolates.
  • A highly statistically significant trend in ampicillin resistance was seen among ground turkey with 52.6% resistance in 2010, up from 31.3% in 2002.

Of course, not all of the antibiotic resistance trends presented in the report are completely miserable (note, for example, the decrease in nalidixic acid resistance following 2005's fluoroquinolone ban), but the overall numbers (the highlights of which you can read here) are pretty negative; and they also add to a rapidly growing body of evidence that paints antibiotic resistance as one of the most pressing public health threats facing us today.

Read more about the report — including analyses on tables that illustrate the growing issue of multidrug resistance in E. coli and Salmonellaover on Superbug.

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