Hiking and chicken 

SynCell News • March 13, 2021

Imagine yourself hiking one day over the mountains, and along the way, you discover that the path is full of snow. Missing your snow boots at the car, you decide to go back. In the parking lot, you find someone else that is about to start the hike, and as a good person you are, you tell them about the snow, so they take the boots that otherwise they would have not and start hiking with you. Now, prepared, the route is easy and lacks challenges.

Well, bacteria do precisely the same. By changing the snow for antibiotics and boots for antibiotic-resistant genes, the story is pretty similar.

Today’s main character is Campylobacter, a foodborne pathogen that can be found everywhere from farms to grocery stores and that loves to infect people through contaminated food. Once it reached the body, it causes diarrhea, fever, and cramps, and ultimately, might lead to the Guillain-Barré syndrome, triggering paralysis.

4 out of 10 chicken breast have bacteria in them

Recent research has discovered that two of the most problematic strains are exchanging genetic material, resulting in extremely virulent bacteria, well-prepared for the path ahead.

You might think this is pretty normal among bacteria, and you will be correct. However, the situation is kind of problematic. One of the strains is C. jejuni, which causes up to 90% of human infections, while the other, known as C. coli, is twice as likely to contain multidrug-resistant genes.

Besides, these two bacteria like to live in poultry. For instance, in North Caroline, the C. coli strain was found in around 60% of the chicken isolates. Of those, 90% of them contained at least one AMR gene, with 43% containing resistance genes for three or more antibiotics.

Now, what that this means for you? If you go to the supermarket and pick ten different chicken breasts, four of them will have bacteria in them. Of these, at least one will have resistance to a commonly used antibiotic like fluoroquinolone.

So, the next time you go to the supermarket and want to buy some chicken, think about bacteria and the hiking story. And maybe share that knowledge with others.