US Scientists Find Superbugs
In Chicken Feed
LONDON (Reuters) - American researchers have found bacteria in chicken feed that are resistant to the most powerful antibiotics and could pose a health threat to humans.
In a letter to The Lancet medical journal Friday, Dr Glen Morris of the University of Maryland in Baltimore said the discovery of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) in animal feed raised fears that it could be passed on to humans.
``The identification of a highly resistant enterococal strain in feed raises disturbing questions about the potential for penetration of VRE strains into farms and food animal populations in the USA and subsequent risk of transfer into human populations,'' he said in the letter.
Animal feed is not expected to be sterile but researchers believe it is the first report of VRE from commercially prepared chicken feed in the United States.
Vancomycin is the last line of resistance to so-called superbugs that have built up a resistance to most conventional drugs. Enterococci, which causes intestinal problems, is a common source of infection in hospitals and usually treated with antibiotics.
Scientists blame the increase in superbugs on the overuse of antibiotics in people and animals. Medical experts think animals are the source of superbugs that are passed on to humans.
The discovery of the drug-resistant enterococci in animal feed means it could be transferred to animals and to humans.
The researchers did not say which company made the chicken feed or how it become contaminated, but they said drug resistant enterococci was widespread in at least one lot of feed.