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Antibiotic resistant Salmonella traced from farm to shop

By Tim Sandle     Sep 4, 2013 in Science
Scientists are concerned with both the use of antibiotic resistant bacteria in farming and the spread of bacteria in the food chain. A new genetic method is now available to help study the latest trends.
It has been estimated that Salmonella infections are in the U.S. are responsible for an estimated 1 million illnesses, 20,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths at an economic cost exceeding $3 billion. Of these infections, the number of antibiotic-resistant isolates identified in humans is increasing steadily.
Most of the antibiotic resistant strains have arisen from the use of antibiotics added to the feed of farm animals. In relation to this, the Digital Journal reported recently about a scientific report that revealed that farm workers who work on farms where high levels of antibiotics are used in farm animals carry a high proportion of antibiotic-resistant bacteria compared with farms that are antibiotic-free.
The reason that many farmers have increased their use of antibiotics is for “growth promotion.” Here antibiotics are employed primarily in large, concentrated feedlots for poultry, swine, and cattle, in order to fatten the animals faster, prevent rampant herd disease and help bring healthy animals to market more quickly. The argument against this practice is that animals fed low-dose antibiotics not only propagate antibiotic resistant bacteria, but practices also spread these resistant strains to farmers, their families, community residents, and ultimately, hospitalized patients.
Tracing the transmission of individual pathogens from agricultural environments to humans through the food system can be difficult; however researchers have now developed a method for identifying and tracking strains of Salmonella. This method relies on looking at the unique DNA code of different bacteria.
Using the new method, the researchers were able to track certain pathogens of concern through the food chain for chicken products, effectively from farm to fork, via the store.
The research was carried out at Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. The findings have been published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. The paper is titled “Antibiotic Resistance in Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium Associates with CRISPR Sequence Type.”
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