Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria found in chicken, turkey and pork sold in grocery stores

bacteriaResearchers from the Milken Institute SPH, Translational Genomics Research Institute, Flagstaff Medical Center, the VA Healthcare System-Minneapolis, Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, the University of Minnesota, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published a study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases indicating that a disease causing bacteria is found in chicken, turkey and pork sold in grocery stores.

“This study is the first to suggest that consumers can be exposed to potentially dangerous Klebsiella from contaminated meat,” said Lance B. Price, PhD, lead author of the study and a professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. “The U.S. government monitors food for only a limited number of bacterial species, but this study shows that focusing on the ‘usual suspects’ may not capture the full scope of foodborne pathogens.”

Scientists analyzed 508 meat products purchased from grocery stores in 2012 and determined that 47% harbored Klebsiella and the strains recovered were resistant to antibiotics. The team analyzed urine and blood samples taken from Flagstaff area residents who were suffering from infections during the same time period and found that bacteria also comprised 10 percent of the 1,728 positive cultures from patients with either urinary tract or blood infections in the Flagstaff Arizona area. The researchers used whole-genome DNA sequencing to compare the Klebsiella isolated from retail meat products with the Klebsiella isolated from patients and found that some isolate pairs were nearly identical.The antibiotic resistance was attributed to the use of antibiotics in food animal production.

“As an infectious disease doctor, I have encountered Klebsiella pneumoniae in my patients. We tend to think of this organism as being one that individuals carry naturally, or acquire from the environment,” said James R. Johnson, MD, a co-author of the study and a professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota. “This research suggests that we also can pick up these bacteria from the food we eat.”

“Now we have another drug resistant pathogen in the food supply, underscoring the public health concern regarding antibiotic use in food animal production,” said Price. “This study is one of the many reasons we launched ARAC. We want to quantify the relationship between antibiotic use in food animal production and antibiotic-resistant infections in people. Meanwhile, there is one big thing that can be done to protect human health in relation to antibiotic-resistant foodborne bacteria: stop overusing antibiotics in food-animal production.”


Lance B. Price et al. Intermingled Klebsiella pneumoniae populations between retail meats and human urinary tract infections. Clinical Infectious Diseases, July 2015 DOI: 10.1093/cid/civ428

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