Transcript: Avoiding Chicken to Avoid Bladder Infections
Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
Where do bladder infections come from? Back in the 70s, 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 their urethra before they infected the bladder. But, it would be another 25 years before genetic fingerprinting techniques were able to confirm this so-called fecal-perineal-urethral theory—indicating that, indeed, it’s the “E.coli strains residing in the rectal flora [that] serve as a reservoir for urinary tract infections.”
Yet, 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 from 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 as an animal-to-human disease. And, UTIs; 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, and, poof—the bacteria ends up in their rectum, ready to cause trouble. In fact, five 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 in their gut. 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, because it can end up selecting for, and amplifying, superbugs that may end up in our 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. Now, 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 for people.
Now, after they were done cooking it, there was bacteria from chicken feces—salmonella, campylobacter—both serious human pathogens, everywhere, 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.
Okay, fine. Obviously, people don’t know what they’re doing in the kitchen. 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: wash the cutting board, knobs on the sink, the faucet, the fridge, the doorknobs, everything. And, the researchers still found pathogenic fecal bacteria everywhere. Fine. Okay.
Last group. This time, they were going to insist that people bleach everything. The dishcloth, immersed in bleach disinfectant, and then they spray the bleach on all those surfaces. Let the bleach disinfectant sit there for five minutes. And, they still 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 ten days.
The problem is that people tend to eat chicken more than once every ten days, so they may be constantly introducing these chicken pathogens into their colon.
For example, if you start feeding people only sterilized meat that’s been boiled for an hour, within three weeks, there’s a 500-fold drop in the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria passing through their bodies.
Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.