Superbug salad: green leafy vegetables can contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria

How unprocessed leafy vegetables hide potentially dangerous super bacteria: experts warn & # 39; difficult to wash & # 39; vegetables such as lettuce are highly likely to spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria

  • Experts in California discovered that antibiotics did not protect mice against E.coli insects
  • Bacteria were introduced into lettuce leaves, which are eaten raw
  • Scientists said people needed to know that these bacteria are not only present in meat

Raw leafy green vegetables such as lettuce most likely carry dangerous super bacteria, researchers warn.

Scientists found bacteria that were strong enough to survive and to treat antibiotics that could be transported on lettuce.

Lettuce in particular was a source of concern for the experts, because the natural grooves and folds in the leaves make it difficult to wash thoroughly.

And lettuce and other leafy vegetables are often eaten raw, meaning that bacteria have not been killed by heat.


Although farmed meat contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria, researchers have warned that the same pathogenic insects can be transported from farms on lettuce vegetables such as lettuce that are eaten raw and may be difficult to clean (stock image)

Although farmed meat contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria, researchers have warned that the same pathogenic insects can be transported from farms on lettuce vegetables such as lettuce that are eaten raw and may be difficult to clean (stock image)

Antibiotic resistance has been declared one of the greatest threats to human health, and farmed meat is considered an important cause.

Many animals are given antibiotics if they are not even sick to make them grow, but bacteria are getting used to being near the medicines.

But researchers at the University of Southern California say that not only meat is to blame, but vegetables can also play a role.


Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are bacteria that are strong enough to survive treatment with previously effective drugs.

Exposure to antibiotics in small quantities or when there is no infection increases the risk that bacteria get used to the medicine.


Farm animals kept to produce meat sometimes receive antibiotics, many of which are the same as those used to treat humans, to make them grow faster.

In a natural environment, animals would be exposed to bacteria and then use energy to fight infection and build up immunity.

Antibiotics eliminate the need for this immune response by immediately killing bacteria, allowing more of the animal's energy to be used to make the body grow. That is why the farmer gets more meat.

However, bacteria become resistant to these antibiotics because they are constantly exposed to them, which means that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria – the superugs – accumulate in the animal.

These are then passed on to the human food chain when the animals are slaughtered and sold as meat or in their milk or when their manure is used to fertilize farms.


They added mutant E.coli strains to lettuce leaves and fed them to mice that had undergone antibiotic treatment for four days, New scientist reported.

And the E.coli could survive and colonize its passage through the body – take root and multiply – in the intestines of the mouse, despite the antibiotics.

"We come across people who say they are vegetarian now that they are safe," said lead investigator Marlene Maeusli.

& # 39; What we are trying to say is that everyone, regardless of whether or not you are a vegetarian, is still connected to the larger food chain. & # 39;

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two million people get antibiotic-resistant infections in the country every year and 230,000 die.


And so & # 39; n 400,000 of those infections are believed to come from food – usually meat.

Mrs Maeusli, a PhD student, did not indicate where the bacteria could come from in a real environment.

But past research has suggested that they can pass on vegetables through land that has been fertilized with animal manure or with water used to irrigate farms.

Although these antibiotic-resistant bacteria may not cause immediate infection, if they accumulate in the body, they can cause a worse and difficult-to-treat disease down the line.

& # 39; The environment and human health – in this context through agriculture and microbiomes – are inseparably linked to each other & # 39 ;, Maeusli said.


& # 39; Our findings emphasize the importance of addressing antibiotic resistance through food from a complete perspective of the food chain that includes vegetable food as well as meat. & # 39;

Mrs. Maeusli and her team presented their research at the American Society for Microbiology conference in California at the weekend.

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