An increasing number of medical researchers are saying that superbugs in chicken could be responsible for putting more than 8 million women at risk of developing drug-resistant bladder infections, a new investigational report reveals.
A joint investigation by the Food & Environment Reporting Network and ABC News suggests that the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture may be responsible making it more difficult to treat painful, long-lasting bladder infections, which reportedly affect up 60 percent of all American women.
The investigation, which was aired on ABC's "Good Morning America," found that a strain of E. coli found in the DNA of chickens that were fed antibiotics while alive are being transmitted to humans, causing infections that are extremely difficult to treat.
These antibiotic-resistant superbugs are reportedly found in everyday retail chicken across the United States, and are infecting people, mostly women, in a variety of ways from handling raw poultry or eating foods cross-contaminated with E. coli.
However, the meat and poultry industry has refuted the latest findings, saying that the drug-resistant E. coli does not originate from chicken that are fed antibiotics.
The National Chicken Council said in a statement that changes to the use of antibiotics in chicken have no connection to the risks people have to E. coli.
“The data is not an accurate representation of how antibiotic resistance transfers from meat to humans," Dr. Charles Hofacre, professor and director of clinical services at the Univ. of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine said in the statement released by the National Chicken Council . “The study’s authors are making some really big stretches of their data."
However, in the latest ABC News investigational report, researcher found that the drug-resistant E. coli strain found in contaminated chicken match the bacteria found in urinary tract infections patients with infections that were difficult to treat.
Experts say that about 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the country are given to chickens for a variety of reasons like preventing disease and helping them grow bigger.
Researchers say that women are at a greater risk of the drug-resistant bug because they are at a greater risk of developing bladder infections.
“We’re finding the same or related E. coli in human infections and in retail meat sources, specifically chicken,” Amee Manges, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, told ABC News.
Researchers say that there has not been any specific research to prove the recent theory proposed by investigators because scientists would have to purposely infect healthy women.
Researchers recommend that women avoid the illness by keeping kitchens and food clean to prevent contamination.
They say people may be infected with the superbug if they have an ongoing bladder infection that doesn't go away, and they recommend that patients with a superbug infection take a stronger antibiotic.
Bladder infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria frequently become a long-term burden for patients because it can take several different antibiotics to fight off the superbugs.
Researchers said that it may be impossible to fully establish the exact connection between chicken that people eat to bladder infections because the illness is not generally food-related.
A person can eat contaminated chicken and develop a bladder infection months later because drug-resistant bacteria can remain in an infected person's system for a long-period of time.