Nearly Half of All U.S. Meat Contaminated With Drug-Resistant Bacteria

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According to new research funded by the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, just about half of all meat in America is laced with drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus—the bacteria that often causes staph infections. In light of growing concerns about so-called "superbugs" (resistant pathogens often related to industrial agriculture), it will be interesting to see how the news is received. More info from The Los Angeles Times:

Meat in the U.S. may be widely contaminated with strains of drug-resistant bacteria, researchers reported Friday.

Nearly half of all meat and poultry sampled in a new study contained drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, the type of bacteria that most commonly causes staph infections. Such infections can take many forms, from a minor rash to pneumonia or sepsis. But the findings are less about direct threats to humans than they are about the risks of using antibiotics in agriculture.

Researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute, a nonprofit biomedical research center in Phoenix, analyzed 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 80 brands. The samples came from 26 grocery stores in five cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Washington, D.C.

About half -- 47% of the samples -- contained S. aureus, the researchers reported Friday in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Of those bacteria, 52% were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics. DNA testing suggested the animals were the source of contamination. The research was funded by the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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