Widespread Antibiotic-Resistant Strains of Dangerous Foodborne Bacteria Found in Michigan

A recent study conducted by Michigan State University (MSU) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has unearthed alarming information regarding a prevalent foodborne bacteria. Over 100 strains of Campylobacter jejuni, a prominent foodborne bacterium, have been identified as resistant to at least one antibiotic in Michigan. In a concerning turn, over half of these strains were discovered to have genetic resistance against various antibiotics primarily used in bacterial infection treatments.

The bulk of these resistant strains have ties to chicken or cattle sources. This finding, researchers stress, has a broader implication: these antibiotic resistance genes can easily transfer to other bacteria in the gut during infections or even in animal reservoirs. This potential transfer can lead to an increase in antibiotic-resistant pathogens, making treatments more complicated.

Project leader, Professor Shannon Manning of MSU’s microbiology and molecular genetics department, highlighted the significance of the modern genome sequencing tools used in the study. These tools helped identify the remarkable diversity in the genomes of these pathogens, revealing genes that protect them against multiple antibiotics.

This information is invaluable not only to healthcare professionals but also to the general population, particularly those more susceptible to severe repercussions from stomach bugs. For these individuals, such infections can lead to hospitalizations, severe complications, long-term disabilities, or even death.

The newfound knowledge about the specific antibiotic resistance genes within Campylobacter will assist medical professionals in prescribing more effective treatments, potentially reducing the duration of hospital stays.

An essential takeaway from the study is the lasting nature of these antibiotic-resistant genes. Even after a successful battle against an infection, the genes can remain and be incorporated by other microbes, providing them with resistance. Manning stressed, “Foodborne pathogens are ubiquitous. If they possess resistance genes, they can transfer them to other bacteria, intensifying the importance of food safety.”

Manning further emphasized the significance of avoiding cross-contamination during food preparation and the simple act of washing hands to mitigate infections.

The study also showcased the capability of genetic analysis in tracing the origins of specific bacterial strains. In Michigan, most infections stemmed from strains connected to chicken or cattle hosts, indicating a higher likelihood of infections in rural areas. This sheds light on the importance of monitoring exposure to these animals and their environments.

Professor Manning commented on the distinctive ecological and agricultural aspects of Michigan that might influence these pathogens’ survival and growth. The team continues to study other major contributors to foodborne illnesses, aiming to understand Michigan’s unique environment better and make more informed health recommendations.