My previously healthy patient is admitted with a multi-drug resistant E. coli urinary tract infection. Could her urinary tract infection (UTI) be foodborne?

Yes! Although foodborne infections are often thought to cause infections limited to the GI tract, an increasing number of studies have linked foodborne E.coli to extraintestinal infections in humans, including UTIs.1

Supportive data include frequent genetic similarly between antimicrobial-resistant E. coli from humans and poultry-associated E. coli. 2 In fact, antimicrobial-resistant E. coli isolates from humans may be  genetically more similar to poultry isolates than susceptible commensal E. coli strains in the human GI tract.3

A U.S. study found that 14% of chicken meat products were contaminated with E. coli strains capable of causing extraintestinal disease, 1/3 of which were mutli-drug resistant.4  Another study found that 94% of retail chicken meat samples contained E. coli with ESBL-genes,  of which nearly 40% contained isolates present in humans.5

Among women, UTI caused by antimicrobial-resistant extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli has been linked to high levels of self-reported chicken consumption.6

The plausibility of foodborne transmission of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli to humans is further supported by the finding that drug resistant E coli from chicken carcasses widely contaminate the kitchen during meal preparation and can appear in the intestinal tract of those who prepare such food.2

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that women with multi-drug resistant E. coli UTI are 3.7 times more likely to report frequent consumption of chicken? 6

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  1. Manges AR. Escherichia coli and urinary tract infections: the role of poultry-meat. Clin Microbiol Infect 2016;22:122-29.
  2. Manges AR, Johnson JR. Reservoirs of extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli. Microbiol Spectrum 2012;3(5):UTI-0006-2012.
  3. Johnson JR, Menard M, Johsnton B, et al. Epidemic clonal groups of Escherichia coli as a cause of antimicrobial-resistant urinary tract infections in Canada, 2002 to 2004. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 53;2733-2739.
  4. Johnson JR, Porter SB, Johnston B, et al. Extraintestinal pathogenic and antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli, including sequence type 131 (ST131) from retail chicken breasts in the United States in 2013. Apppl Environ Microbiol 83:e02956-16.
  5. Leverstein-van Hall MA, Dierikx CM, Stuart JC, et al. Dutch patients, retail chicken meat and poultry share the same ESBL genes, plasmids and strains. Clin Microbiol Infect 2011;17:873-880.
  6. Manges AR, Smith SP, Lau BJ, et al. Retail meat consumption and the acquisition of antimicrobial resistant Escherichia coli causing urinary tract infections: a case-control study. Foodborne Path Dis 4:419-431.


My previously healthy patient is admitted with a multi-drug resistant E. coli urinary tract infection. Could her urinary tract infection (UTI) be foodborne?

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