The more bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the
higher the chance they will develop resistance to the drugs.
Unnecessary exposure can happen in humans who take antibiotic drugs
they don't need, like for the common cold, which is caused by a
virus and not affected by antibiotics. It can also happen when large
numbers of livestock are given feed laced with antibiotics to help
them grow faster and larger.
According to the World Health Organization, 75 percent of
antibiotics sold are destined for use in animals.
Drug-resistant bacteria originating from both humans and animals can
cause infections, which are harder to treat than infections caused
by non-resistant bacteria.
The fact that cutting boards were contaminated with drug-resistant
bacteria is troubling, but not surprising, Dr. James R. Johnson
Johnson, an infectious diseases researcher at the Minneapolis VA
Health Care System in Minnesota, was not involved in the new study.
"If other foods go on those boards before the boards get cleaned, or
even after they're cleaned if the cleaning isn't 100 percent
effective, the other foods, which may not get cooked, or not as
thoroughly as poultry, likely would get contaminated and so could
possibly pose an even higher risk of transmission to humans than the
poultry products themselves," he told Reuters Health in an email.
The new study took place in Europe, where growth-promoting
antibiotics for animals are banned, but antibiotics can still be
used in livestock "therapeutically." The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration announced the first move to phase out
growth-promoting antibiotics in animals processed for meat in late
For 16 months, Dr. Andreas F. Widmer of University Hospital Basel in
Switzerland and colleagues collected cutting boards and used gloves
from their hospital's kitchen, which prepares meals for 650 patients
daily, as well as for hospital staff.
They also collected cutting boards from kitchens in private homes in
Switzerland, France and Germany, and swabbed for bacteria after the
boards were used to prepare food and before they were cleaned.
Ten of the 154 cutting boards taken from the hospital kitchen tested
positive for a type of drug-resistant E. coli bacteria, compared to
five of the 144 boards taken from homes, according to results
published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
There were probably more bacteria in the hospital because hospital
kitchens process much more meat than household kitchens, experts
[to top of second column]
"These E. coli are resistant to some of the last good drugs we
have to treat them," Lance B. Price, who was not involved in the
European study, told Reuters Health.
"The 'nightmare superbug' is just one step further than these," said
Price, who studies antibiotic resistance at George Washington
University in Washington, D.C.
That makes the results alarming, he said.
Half of the used gloves from the hospital also tested positive for
drug-resistant bacteria, indicating that gloves and cutting boards
could be sources of bacteria transmission, the authors write.
They recommend food service workers and home cooks be vigilant about
washing their hands not only after handling meat, but also after
handling used cutting boards.
For home cooks, hot water and detergent work well to sanitize used
cutting boards, but a simple wipe-down with a dishrag will not
suffice, Johnson said.
"For industrial kitchens, I'm not sure what's recommended, or the
standard," he said. "I'd think a bleach solution, or other
disinfectant, might be desirable, if the boards can't undergo
high-temp detergent washing," which may be the case for wooden
cutting boards permanently attached to a counter that can't be put
in a dishwasher.
Price said people should never use their designated raw meat or
poultry cutting board for preparing any other types of food.
Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, online March 24, 2014.
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