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Study Suggests Human Bladder Infections May Be Tied to Overuse of Antibiotics in Industrial Food Production System

Posted on by IBSTC

We are all living in a giant experiment where we have dramatically changed how food is produced and what it contains.

Studies show that the increase in human bladder infections appears to be tied to overuse of antibiotics in our industrial food production system. And while this isn’t a definitive study, we are all living in a giant experiment where we have dramatically changed how food is produced and what it contains, including genetic modification of our food and the use of antibiotics and pesticides that mean we are essentially taking drugs when we eat food. (See this recent article from NPR’s food blog.)

This may be related to the changes in both gut microbial communities in people and the rise in food allergies and celiac disease. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, lupus and celiac disease are on the rise and researchers are looking into environmental surroundings as a possible cause as well. (see Researchers Look at Causes of Autoimmune Diseases.)

While this isn’t a definitive study, we are all living in a giant experiment where we have dramatically changed how food is produced and what it contains, including genetic modification of our food and the use of antibiotics and pesticides that mean we are essentially taking drugs when we eat food.

We hope that researchers will head the call of Dr. Miller of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and others to investigate what the effects of GMO, antibiotics, factory farming, and pesticides are having on human health.

Excerpt from NPR:

Researchers in a number of places — United States, Canada, throughout Europe, Australia — show close molecular matches in resistant DNA in strains of E. coli found in three places: In chickens and turkey at slaughter; in chicken and turkey meat; and in human infections. (For a list of McKenna’s sources, see her blog post here.[update 2013: Wired moved her blog so we lost the link.].)

The strains of E. coli that they have been tracking happen to be the kind that leave the gut to create infections elsewhere in the body. Specifically they are the strains responsible for urinary tract infections, which in the U.S., occur up to eight million times per year, among other things. These findings correlate to an observed rise in resistance in UTIs over the past decade, so much so that the Infectious Diseases Society of America has revised its advice on which drugs to prescribe.

Does this prove a definite link between drug-resistant bacteria in food animals – chickens, in this case – and human infections?

It depends on what “proof” means — and I don’t say that to be funny. Because of this decade of research, there is now abundant epidemiologic evidence that this bacterial traffic is occurring. That may be the best science can do, because the experiment that would prove this on an individual level — giving antibiotics to a single animal, watching for the development of resistance, slaughtering the animal, and feeding the meat to someone in an attempt to cause a resistant infection — would be unethical.

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