Some foodborne pathogens are becoming increasingly resistant to common antibiotic drug treatments and could pose a greater risk to the U.S. population, according to the results of a new report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research provides the latest nationwide data on antibiotic resistance among germs like Salmonella, Shigella and E. coli, which are commonly spread to humans through contaminated food products.
Among the report’s most troubling finds was that Salmonella typhi, the bacteria that causes typhoid fever, was 14 percent more resistant to antibiotics in 2013 compared with the period between 2008 and 2012, according to the CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, which conducted the research. The resistance of Shigella, a bacterium that causes intestinal disease, doubled by 2013, with 4 percent of bacteria samples not responding to common treatments.
Health officials found that resistance among another common variety of Salmonella jumped from 18 percent in 2011 to 46 percent in 2013. The bacterium has been linked to pork and beef products purchased from live animal markets, the CDC said.
At the same time, researchers noted that overall drug resistance among all types of Salmonella had remained relatively stable, at about 10 percent.
Antibiotics have been used for roughly seven decades to treat various infectious diseases. However, their overuse has been largely to blame for the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, sometimes called superbugs. Patients are too often prescribed antibiotics for viral infections for which such drugs are of little use.
Research has often focused on antibiotic resistance among hospital-acquired infections like MRSA and C. difficile, but health experts say resistance among common food germs could pose a growing threat. “Bacterial foodborne infections are common and can be serious,” the CDC said in a statement. “In severe cases, the right antibiotic … can be life-saving.” The health agency added that “understanding trends in antibiotic resistance helps doctors to prescribe effective treatment and public health officials to investigate outbreaks faster.”