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Common Bacteria Found in Raw Chicken Linked to Higher Risks of UTIs, Study Suggests

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If you've ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), you know the intense pain that this type of infection can bring. And you've probably already read up on ways to prevent a UTI in the future, such as consuming lots of vitamin C. But did you know that one possible cause of your UTI might be your chicken dinner?

An August 2018 study published in the American Society for Microbiology's journal mBio found that a certain E. coli strain seen in many chicken and turkey products can actually cause UTIs in people. Over the course of a year, researchers analyzed 2,452 retail meat samples and found E. coli in nearly 80 percent of them. During the same year, the team also collected and analyzed urine and blood isolates taken from patients staying at the Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. As it turned out, E. coli ST131 was the most common strain of the bacteria infecting people. It was also seen on meat samples.

Intrigued, the researchers took a closer look and discovered that almost all the E. coli on the chicken and turkey samples belonged to the ST131-H22 strain. This same exact poultry-adapted strain was also found to be causing UTIs in people.

"In the past, we could say that E. coli from people and poultry were related to one another, but with this study, we can more confidently say that the E. coli went from poultry to people and not vice versa," said lead researcher Lance B. Price, PhD, in a press release.

The good news? This problem is certainly an avoidable one. Researchers say this study simply underscores the importance of cooking all poultry products thoroughly and handling them carefully in the kitchen.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the four food safety steps must be followed to avoid contracting any harmful bacteria. They are:

  1. Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often. 
  2. Separate: Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods. 
  3. Cook: Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C). 
  4. Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

For more extended info on properly handling and cooking poultry products, you can check out the official Food Safety website.

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