What do chickens have to do with UTIs?
No, this isn't a bad joke. A new study shows that UTIs can sometimes be caused by eating contaminated chicken. That's surprising because until now, doctors have blamed this common infection on transmission of Escherichia coli bacteria -- or E.coli -- from the bowel to the urethra, most commonly due to poor hygiene or during sex.
"We suspect that the transmission is occurring the same way other foodborne agents are transferred," study researcher Amee Manges, PhD, of McGill University, told MedPage Today. That means transmission of the bacteria may occur when you don't handle food safely or properly, you have kitchen contamination or you undercook the chicken.
Researchers of the study, which was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, tested 320 samples of beef, pork and chicken for their E. coli. They found that the E. coli in the chicken was much more genetically related to those of human urinary tract infections, compared with the E. coli in the beef and pork.
Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria, fungi or viruses infect the urinary tract, with bacteria begin the most frequent cause of infection, according to the National Institutes of Health. The body is usually able to remove bacteria from the urinary tract, but sometimes the bacteria are able to live there and grow, causing an infection.
Bacteria that are in the bowel are the usual culprits for UTIs, with E. coli causing most cases, the National Institutes of Health reported.
"The possibility that ExPEC [E. coli] causing UTIs and other extraintestinal infections in humans could originate from a food animal reservoir raises public health concern," researchers wrote in the study. "New interventions may be needed to reduce the level of food contamination and risk for transmission."
Typically, salmonella poisoning is the expected health risk that comes from eating undercooked chicken. The bacteria is the No. 1 cause of food poisoning, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Recently, a study by researchers from Ohio State University showed the economic impact of eating a bad burger -- or piece of chicken, or mussel, or any other undercooked or ill-prepared food that causes you to spend the next few days in bed. Food poisoning costs the U.S. more than $77 billion a year, according to the study.