Danger Lurks in Your Meat: Bacteria Responsible for 500k+ UTIs a Year

Do you relish a juicy burger or a tender steak? So, fair warning: there may be a price to pay for your meat-eating habits. More than half a million UTIs are reported annually in the United States, and a recent study suggests that the bacteria found in meat products may be to blame. Considering the potential repercussions before digging into that juicy delight would be best.


Study Reveals a Shocking Link Between Meat and UTIs in the US

A recent study suggests that more than half a million annual urinary tract infections in the United States could be caused by bacteria found in pork.

According to Dr. Craig Comiter, a professor of urology and obstetrics and gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine who was not involved in the new study, as per the given reports by cdc.gov, E. coli is “part of the natural bacterial environment in the intestines in humans and animals,” and is therefore typically harmless.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States report that some strains are very harmful and can lead to diarrhea, respiratory disease, and pneumonia. E. coli has long been suspected as the root cause of urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can affect any component of the urinary system (kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra).

According to the current study, more of these infections may have been linked to E. coli from meat than was previously thought. When E. coli-contaminated heart is not adequately cooked, the bacteria can survive the digestive process and emerge out of the anus, causing an infection.

This close closeness makes it easy for the bacteria to enter the urinary tract and create an infection, resulting in symptoms including a burning sensation during urination, murky urine, and pelvic pain. The Office for Women’s Health estimates that women suffer from UTIs up to 30 times more frequently than males.

What is a UTI and Its Treatment?

A urinary tract infection can affect any portion of the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. UTIs are treated with medications, according to the Mayo Clinic, and women are at greater risk.

There is a broad spectrum of severity in E. coli-related UTIs, from a mild bladder infection to a potentially fatal bloodstream infection. A study published in March 2022 found that urinary tract infections result in over 1 million annual visits to emergency rooms and over 100,000 annual hospital admissions in the United States.

Researchers discovered the yearly national emergency department bill for complicated UTIs jumped from $2.8 billion in 2016 to $3.2 billion in 2018.

Danger Lurks in Your Meat Bacteria Responsible for 500k+ UTIs a Year

“People typically disregard bladder infections as minor annoyances, yet the bladder is a critical doorway to a patient’s kidneys and bloodstream,” said study co-author Cindy Liu, associate professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University.

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The Results of the Research Concerning

From January 2012 and December 2012, the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University reviewed data from retail meat samples. Researchers in Flagstaff, Arizona, examined meat samples from nine different supermarkets and collected blood and urine from patients hospitalized with urinary tract infections in the area.

Dr. Lance Price, a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University and the founder and co-director of the George Washington Antimicrobial Resistance Action Center, said it took ten years to analyze the data, including tracing the sources of the E. coli. Nonetheless, the most common E. coli in 2012 is still the most common.

Using the data and a statistical model, the researchers hypothesized that strains found in meat could be responsible for between 480,000 and 640,000 instances of E. coli urinary tract infections in the United States annually. The findings do not suggest that urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli bacteria found in meat but rather explain why some conditions may occur.

“It does not mean that if we didn’t have these bacteria, we’d have 8% fewer infections,” Comiter said. Kidney damage, sepsis, and a constricted urethra can result from untreated E. coli urinary tract infections.

“Some people think of these as a painful annoyance … but they can be severe infections because the bladder, the urinary tract, is a gateway to the blood,” Price explained in a video by George Washington University. An infection in the kidneys can quickly spread throughout the body.

Dr. Cindy Liu, an author of the study and an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, said in a press statement, “The bladder is a major gateway to patients’ kidneys and bloodstream.”

According to Price, 36,000 to 40,000 people in the United States die every year from bloodstream infections caused by E. coli. The study authors urge more testing for disease-causing organisms in raw meat sold in supermarkets. Raw meat should never be prepared or handled without first washing hands, and natural foods should never be cooked on the same surface as cooked dishes.

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Antibiotic Resistance: A Better Knowledge

The worrying increase in antibiotic-resistant illnesses is another aspect of the problem highlighted by the study’s findings. Most animals used in the food sector receive antibiotics, but Comiter warns that this practice promotes antibiotic resistance.

Meat-associated bacteria are known to be exceptionally resistant to therapy, he noted. Animals raised for consumption are inevitably bred in such a way, he explained. Because they are likely to spread disease amongst themselves, antibiotics must be administered to ensure their survival and maintain our protein supply.

Nevertheless, resistant bacteria in the meat can be transferred to humans through consumption. “As these bacteria become more and more resistant to antibiotics, there is an increase in infections that spread from the bladder to the kidneys to the blood, and regrettably, people are dying,” Price said.

Comiter thinks scientists should examine antibiotic use in livestock as well. He suggested we find an alternative to using antibiotics on livestock if we want to eat burgers.

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