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Avoiding Chicken To Avoid Bladder Infections

Handling chicken can lead to the colonization of one’s colon with antibiotic resistant E. coli that may result in bladder infections in women.

June 10, 2013 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

C. R. Bergeron, C. Prussing, P. Boerlin, D. Daignault, L. Dutil, R. J. Reid-Smith, G. G. Zhanel, A. R. Manges. Chicken as reservoir for extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli in humans, Canada. Emerging Infect. Dis. 2012 18(3):415 - 421

L. Jakobsen, P. Garneau, G. Bruant, J. Harel, S. S. Olsen, L. J. Porsbo, A. M. Hammerum, N. Frimodt-Moller. Is Escherichia coli urinary tract infection a zoonosis? Proof of direct link with production animals and meat. Eur. J. Clin. Microbiol. Infect. Dis. 2012 31(6):1121 - 1129

J. L. Platell, J. R. Johnson, R. N. Cobbold, D. J. Trott. Multidrug-resistant extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli of sequence type ST131 in animals and foods. Vet. Microbiol. 2011 153(1 - 2):99 - 108

A. R. Manges, J. R. Johnson. Food-borne origins of Escherichia coli causing extraintestinal infections. Clin. Infect. Dis. 2012 55(5):712 - 719

T. A. Cogan, S. F. Bloomfield, T. J. Humphrey. The effectiveness of hygiene procedures for prevention of cross-contamination from chicken carcases in the domestic kitchen. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 1999 29(5):354 - 358

S. Yamamoto, T. Tsukamoto, A. Terai, H. Kurazono, Y. Takeda, O. Yoshida. Genetic evidence supporting the fecal-perineal-urethral hypothesis in cystitis caused by Escherichia coli. J. Urol. 1997 157(3):1127 - 1129

T. A. Stamey, M. Timothy, M. Millar, G. Mihara. Recurrent urinary infections in adult women. The role of introital enterobacteria. Calif. Med. 1971 115(1):1 - 19

A. H. Linton, K. Howe, P. M. Bennett, M. H. Richmond, E. J. Whiteside. The colonization of the human gut by antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli from chickens. J. Appl. Bacteriol. 1977 43(3):465 - 469

D.E. Corpet. Antibiotic resistance from food. N Engl J Med. 1988 318(18):1206-1207.

K.H. Bardeleben & E. Haeckel. Atlas of applied (topographical) human anatomy for students and practitioners. New York, NY: Rebman Company, 1906.


Images thanks to framboise and Turbotorque via Wikimedia Commons.


Where do bladder infections come from? Back in the 70's, longitudinal studies of women over time showed that the movement of rectal bacteria up into the vaginal area preceded the appearance of those same types of bacteria in the urethra before they were able to infect the bladder, but it would be another 25 years before genetic fingerprinting techniques were able to confirm this so-called fecal-perinealurethral theory, indicating that indeed it's the E.coli strains residing in the rectal flora that serve as a reservoir for urinary tract infections.

But it would be another 15 years still before we tracked it back another step and figured out where that rectal reservoir of bladder infecting E.coli was coming from chicken. Researchers were able to capture these extraintestinal (meaning outside of the gut), pathogenic, disease-causing E. coli straight from the slaughterhouse, to the meat, to the urine specimens obtained infected women. We now have "proof of a direct link between farm animals, meat, and bladder infections," solid evidence that urinary tract infections can be a zoonosis. Urinary tract infections are an animal to human disease. And we're talking millions of women infected a year costing over a billion dollars.

Even worse, the detection of multidrug resistant strains of E. coli in chicken meat resistant to some of our most powerful antibiotics.

The best way to prevent bladder infections is the same way you best prevent all types of infections, by not getting infected in the first place. It's not in all meat equally—beef and pork appear significantly less likely to harbor bladder-infecting strains than chicken.

Can't you just use a meat thermometer and cook chicken thoroughly? We've known for 36 years that it's not always the meat, but the cross-contamination. If you give people frozen chickens naturally contaminated with antibiotic resistant E. coli, let people prepare and cook it in their own kitchen as they normally would poof--the bacteria ends up in their rectum ready to cause trouble. In fact, 5 different strains of antibiotic resistant E coli jumped from the chicken to the volunteer. And they know it was cross-contamination because the jump happened after the animal was prepared but before it was eaten. Not only did it not matter how well the chicken was cooked, it doesn't even matter if you eat any! It's the bringing of the contaminated carcass into the home and handling it. Within days, the drug resistant chicken bacteria had multiplied to the point of becoming a major part of the person's fecal flora. Here's all this drug resistant bacteria colonizing this person's colon, yet the person hadn't taken any antibiotics—it's the chickens who were given the drugs. That's why the industry shouldn't be routinely feeding chickens antibiotics by the millions of pounds a year. It can end up selecting for and amplifying superbugs that may end up in your body.

What if you're really careful in the kitchen? The effectiveness of hygiene procedures for prevention of cross-contamination from chicken carcasses in the domestic kitchen. They went into five dozen homes, gave them each a chicken and asked them to cook it. I expected to read that they inoculated the carcass with a specific number of bacteria to ensure everyone got a contaminated bird, but no. They realized that fecal contamination of chicken carcasses was so common that they just went to the store and bought any random chicken.

After they were done cooking it, there was bacteria from chicken feces—salmonella, campylobacter—both serious human pathogens, everywere, on the cutting board, utensils, on their hands, on the fridge handle, cupboard, oven handle doorknob. But this was before they cleaned up. What about after cleaning? Still pathogenic fecal bacteria everywhere.

OK, fine, obviously people don't know what they're doing, so they took another group of people and gave them specific instructions. After you cook the chicken you have to wash everything with hot water and detergent, they were told specifically to wash the cutting board, knobs on the sink, the faucet, the fridge, the doorknobs, everything. The researchers still found pathogenic fecal bacteria everywhere. Fine. Last group. This time they were going to insist that people bleach everything. The dishcloth was immersed in bleach disinfectant and then they sprayed the bleach on all those surfaces. Let the bleach disinfectant sit there for 5 minutes. And still they found campylobacter and salmonella on some utensils, a dishcloth, the counter around the sink and the cupboard. Definitely better, but still, unless our kitchen is like some biohazard lab, the only way to guarantee we're not going to leave infection around the kitchen is to not bring it into the house in the first place.

The good news is that it's not like you eat chicken once and you're colonized for life. In this study the chicken bacteria only seemed to last about 10 days. The problem is that people tend to eat chicken more than once every ten days so they were constantly introducing these chicken pathogens into their system. For example if you start feeding people only sterilized meat that's been boiled for an hour, within 3 weeks there's a 500 fold drop in the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria passing through their bodies.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

I originally explored this topic in Chicken Out of UTIs, but decided I needed to take a much deeper dive, especially in light of the cross-contamination issue, which I also previously touched on in Food Poisoning Bacteria Cross-Contamination and Fecal Contamination of Sushi.

More on the insanity of feeding antibiotics to farm animals by the ton in:

Other videos about diseases that one might not typically associate with food include: 

More on urinary tract health in:

What if you already have a urinary tract infection? Can Cranberry Juice Treat Bladder Infections? That's the next video!

For more context check out my blog: Does Cranberry Juice Work Against Bladder Infections?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • b00mer

    I’m usually the [vegan] cook in our house most days, but once in a while my significant other decides to prepare some dead animal. He always acts like I’m overreacting about being grossed out and getting out the clorox cleanup when he’s done. I’m showing him this video when we get home tonight!

    • Toxins

      Haha, you’ll have to let us know how that goes!

  • Plantstrongdoc

    Chicken from the store contains shit (oh – sorry, fecal residues), it can leave you paralysed (Guillain-Barre), it can kill you slowly (cancer, cardiovascular disease) or rapidly (shitting yourself to death in the bathroom), workers in poultry slaughtering and processing plants have increased risk of dying from certain cancers, you get bladder infections, you get antibiotic-resistant bacteria (that can`t be nuked) – is it legal to sell this stuff !?

  • Mark

    Also, besides cranberry, try a potent course of multi-strain probiotics for several days instead of antibiotics. Antibiotics may kill what’s ailing you, but they will also kill all your good bacteria (microflora) and you’ll be more susceptible to infections afterwards.


  • Thea

    This is so, so fascinating. Awesome video. Thanks!

  • Veganrunner

    Oh goodness. That is crazy!

  • Dave

    So, if the bacteria is everywhere in the flesh-eater’s kitchen, don’t they spread it throughout the world (e.g., equipment at the gym, door knobs, telephones, grocery carts, etc.)?

    In other words, how can I, as a vegan, avoid these bacteria when most of the rest of the world appears to be swimming in it?

    • Southbaysteve

      Hi Dave,
      The 2 things that you have to your advantage are that you are not physically engaging (intimately) with the non-vegans and that your have some filters between you and this bacteria. (This may seem obvious, but I had to say it). The filters of your epidermis and your body’s natural resistance to foreign matter will overwhelm the vast majority of the remainder. Our resistance to disease is like a muscle when it’s exercised properly (not over- or under-worked). It will get stronger and stay in shape for the next time it needs to perform. If you’re are concerned about specific strains of bacteria, I wholly recommend some in depth research. I’d be out of my depth to recommend a treatment plan. Personally, I take NAC and a few other supplements to keep my resistance up when I feel a little less than 100%.

      Unless you’re living in a bubble, you have to get dirty and trust that your God-given ability to resist disease is sufficient to resist and manage most forms of bacterial exposure to maintain your health.

      Wishing you well.

  • Southbaysteve

    Hi Dr. G. As always, I would have never found this information without your level of insight. Your videos are SO relevant and salient. There is no safe way to handle an infected dead chicken…proof positive. I wish I had been better informed about this when I was younger. This makes me sad that I used to think that I was doing so well as a father of 2 daughters. I am sad that they (and me) would be sick too often (me more than them), so I can attribute this to our heavy meat diet. Things have changed. I hope that they will change their diets as well.

    I am now a strict vegan after a health scare and at the moment on a 60 day juice fast…We are on day 38. We (wife and I) are going to be raw-vegan after this (80-90%).

    I am saddened and frustrated with the state of our food industry. I have such a love for our country however we’ve become a ruthless commercially driven enterprise more than a society of opportunists with integrity. There are so many countries that won’t even accept an import of our animal products for this very reason…because the product is unsafe for their populations. So why would we allow OUR populations to endure this experimentation without regard for the natural consequences? It is unconscionable to except such poor judgement and justification from governmental officials, drowning in and tainted by the imbalanced self-regulated “research” documents that are representing the “safety” of the meat and dairy industry’s products. (and don’t get me started on big pharma and their “research” and FDA approval process impact).

    The farm, ranching, grocery and pharma lobbies need to be barred from access to (state and federal) congressional representatives. The respective governments need to be far more objective in their analysis and diagnosis of recommendations on the viability of these population affecting products from the perspective of national security and critical infrastructure and much less so on the perspective of economic gain.

  • Jane Guyette

    Do any of the meat studies differentiate between organic and conventional? I am wondering if organic meats have less health risks.

  • Dida

    Dear doctor Greger, i just read your article on chicken and bladder infection, and i understood that only after one hour boiling the chicken is e-coli free. Is that correct? Thanks in advance

  • Linsuben

    Now I know why I suddenly had regular bladder infections from the age of 18. It is when I left home and started doing my own cooking. (At the time the doctor and my Mum blamed sex with my boyfriend). 20 or so years later i stopped getting bladder infections; about the same time that I became too lazy too cook, so called, “proper” meals any more.

    I had campylobacta twice as well, as least doctors knew that was from chicken.

  • peter gerry

    This really begs the question…. what about supermarket belts and counters. Think about a trip to the store… A few people before you buy chicken… some juice leaks out on the belt, and you put your fresh veggies on the belt. Seems like it MUST be contaminating us too.

  • joy Markman

    Hi Dr. Greger, I looked at your pink juice, & would like to know what is erythritol & where can you find it?
    Thanks Joy

  • philip litrel

    Thank you Dr. Greger for all you do. Now I would like to know to what extent eggs present the same problems?