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article imageReducing E. coli in cows is key to food safety

By Tim Sandle     Apr 3, 2014 in Food
Miami - A new treatment, using microparticles made from chitosan, may help dairy cattle resist uterine diseases and could help improve food safety for people. New research suggests chitosan microparticles kill bacteria.
Uterine illnesses in cows are a major concern. This is because they can make cows infertile, lower milk production and could potentially pose a risk to consumers.
To find a way to kill bacterial infections in the uteri of cows – especially Escherichia coli – a research team selected chitosan (an antimicrobial material derived from dissolved shrimp shells). To explore this, the team infused chitosan microparticles into diseased cow uteri. The results appeared to be successful with most of the infectious bacteria killed.
New compounds are needed to fight infections, especially because dangerous infections are diminishing the role of some antibiotics, making them less able to treat infections. This is also important in the context of a recent news item on the Digital Journal. Here it was reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked 26 companies to voluntarily stop labeling drugs important for treating human infection as acceptable for animal growth promotion.
Many farmers add antibiotics to animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry and other food-producing animals to help them gain weight faster or use less food to gain weight. One side-issue is that antibiotics can often end up in the environment - for example ending up in streams, being spread to crops as fertilizer, or getting carried around by birds - and so they are potentially a threat to public health. This, according to the Washington Post, relates to health issues with the human body and the accelerated rate of bacteria becoming resistant to the very drugs that are designed to kill them.
The research team hope that someday it will be possible for chitosan microparticles to be used to help humans who have become ill from consuming E. coli contaminated food.
The study was carried out at the University of Florida and led by Kwang Cheol Jeong, an assistant professor in animal sciences and UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute.
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