Ominous First: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Food

In a single squid in a Chinese market in Saskatoon
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2014 2:05 PM CDT
Ominous First: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Food

We're growing accustomed to hearing about antibiotic-resistant bacteria in our hospitals; now the CDC says it's entering our markets. In a report out yesterday, the agency revealed that Canadian researchers have, as part of a pilot study, discovered such bacteria in a single raw squid found in a Chinese grocery store in Saskatoon, Canada; it likely hailed from South Korea. That's the first time it's been found in food, the Washington Post reports. Here's a really gloomy assessment from one of the researchers: "This finding means a much broader segment of the population is potentially at risk for exposure. It’s something you may be bringing into your home rather than something you would acquire while traveling or following hospitalization."

The bacterium identified in the squid is a "common environmental organism," explains the Post, but in this instance, it had a gene that rendered it resistant to last-resort antibiotics called carbapenems. That organism, Pseudomonas fluorescens, typically wouldn't harm a healthy person. But for someone with a weakened immune system, it could render common bacteria (think E. coli) resistant to carbapenems. That's because, as the Post explains, once the bacteria is in a person's body, it "can share that gene or enzyme with other bacteria. And that makes those other bacteria also resistant." Though properly cooking the squid would have killed the bacteria, it could spread during the food-prep phase. And at Wired, Maryn McKenna notes that seafood is "a type of food that we tend to undercook and sometimes eat raw." (More antibiotic-resistant bacteria stories.)

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