Not washing your hands after going to the toilet ‘puts you at a greater risk of catching potentially deadly E.coli than eating undercooked chicken or pork’
- Experts found most drug resistant E. coli strains are spread between humans
- The ‘likeliest route’ of catching it is through faecal particles entering your mouth
- E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals
Not washing your hands after going to the toilet puts you at greater risk of getting super E. coli than eating undercooked meat, a study has suggested.
Scientists found the majority of drug resistant-strains of the bug are spread between humans and not through eating raw chicken, beef or pork.
The ‘likeliest route’ of catching the potentially-fatal bug is through faecal particles entering your mouth – mainly through poor toilet hygiene.
Researchers found the majority of super-strains of the common bug are spread between humans and not through eating raw chicken, beef or pork
Study author Professor David Livermore, from the University of East Anglia, said: ‘The great majority of strains of ESBL-E.coli causing human infections aren’t coming from eating chicken, or anything else in the food chain.
‘Rather – and unpalatably – the likeliest route of transmission for ESBL-E.coli is directly from human to human, with faecal particles from one person reaching the mouth of another.’
E.coli is the most common cause of blood poisoning, with more than 40,000 cases each year in England alone, statistics show.
Around 10 per cent of these cases are caused by highly resistant strains which produce an enzyme known as Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase (ESBL).
These bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals, and most varieties are harmless to humans.
However, some strains can cause food poisoning, urinary tract infections and, in the worst case scenario, bloodstream infections.
WHAT IS E. COLI AND WHY IS IT DANGEROUS?
E. coli (Escherichia coli) are bacteria that generally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals.
Infections can occur after coming into contact with the faeces of humans or animals, or by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.
Symptoms of an E.coli infection include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.
In rare cases, sufferers can develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
This is a condition in which there is an abnormal destruction of blood platelets and red blood cells.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the damaged blood cells can clog the kidney’s filtering system, resulting in life-threatening kidney failure.
No treatment currently exists to treat these infections. They usually disappear within one week, but medical professionals recommend resting and drinking fluids to help prevent dehydration and fatigue.
Professor Livermore and colleagues sequenced the genomes of ESBL-producing E.coli for the study, published in journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Samples were extracted from human bloodstream infections, human faeces and human sewerage, as well as beef, pork and chicken.
They found that ESBL-E.coli strains extracted from the human samples were similar to one another but differed to the strains present in animals.
This meant there was ‘little crossover’ of ESBL-E.coli from animals to humans, Professor Livermore and team said.
They added it is still important to follow good hygiene practices while cooking food because other infections can still be picked up through eating.
But Professor Livermore said: ‘Here – in the case of ESBL-E.coli – it’s much more important to wash your hands after going to the toilet.’
Professor Neil Woodford, of Public Health England, said: ‘In order to tackle antibiotic resistance, we not only need to drive down inappropriate prescribing, but reduce infections in the first place.
‘In order to limit serious, antibiotic resistant E.coli bloodstream infections, we must focus on thorough hand washing and good infection control, as well as the effective management of urinary tract infections.
‘Prudent use of antibiotics is essential in both animals and humans. Antibiotics are a finite resource. We need them to continue to work when we get sick.’
Antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli are more likely to be spread by not washing your hands after going to the toilet than by eating undercooked meat, scientists say.
HOW TO COOK PORK SO IT’S SAFE TO EAT
Pork must be adequately cooked to eliminate disease-causing parasites and bacteria that may be present.
It is not necessary to wash raw pork before cooking it as any bacteria which might be present on the surface would be destroyed by cooking.
Humans may contract trichinosis (caused by the parasite, Trichinella spiralis) by eating under-cooked pork.
Today’s pork can be safely enjoyed when cooked to an internal temperature of 63°C (145°F) as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source.
For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
Food borne micro-organisms are found in pork as well as other meats and poultry, are Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia enterocolitica and Listeria monocytogenes.
People can become infected with these bacteria by consuming raw or under-cooked pork, or from the cross-contamination of food contact surfaces, such as counter tops, cutting boards, utensils.
These bacteria are all destroyed by proper handling and thorough cooking.
For safety, the USDA still recommends cooking ground pork such as burgers to 71°C (160 °F) and all organs such as heart, kidney, liver, tongue, and chitterlings) to this higher temperature.
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