(HealthDay News) – Retail purchased chicken may be the source of extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) that causes urinary tract infections (UTIs) in humans, according to a study published online Feb. 15 in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Catherine Racicot Bergeron, of McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues tested 320 E. coli isolates from beef and pork. They also tested whether the reservoir for ExPEC in humans could be food animals themselves by comparing geographically- and temporally-matched E. coli isolates from 475 humans with UTIs and from cecal contents of 349 slaughtered animals.

The researchers found that isolates of E. coli from beef and pork were significantly less likely than those from chicken to be genetically related to isolates of E. coli from humans with UTIs. There were genetic similarities between E. coli from slaughtered animals, principally chickens, and ExPEC causing UTIs in humans.

“ExPEC transmission from food animals could be responsible for human infections, and chickens are the most probable reservoir,” the authors write.

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