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New Study Links Eating Meat to Urinary Tract Infections

photo of urinary tract infection anatomy

March 24, 2023 – At least half a million urinary tract infections are caused by eating meat contaminated with E.coli bacteria, a new study reports.

E.coli is the most common bacteria to cause urinary tract infections, and it usually lives harmlessly in the human intestinal tract, although it is well-known to be a source of food poisoning. 

“Most people understand that eating uncooked meat, or accidentally ingesting bacteria from meat, can cause you to have an upset stomach,” said researcher Lance B. Price, a professor at George Washington University, according to The Washington Post. “But now we also know that specific varieties of E. coli, coming from raw meat, are also causing hundreds of thousands of UTIs.”

The new findings are surprising because most recommendations for preventing UTIs are to pee after having sexual intercourse or to wipe from front to back after using the restroom to reduce the likelihood of introducing bacteria into the urinary tract. UTIs affect 40% of women in their lifetimes and up to 8 million people in the U.S. annually.

The study was published this past month in the journal One Health. For the entire year of 2012, researchers sampled all available brands of raw chicken, turkey, and pork from the major grocery chains in Flagstaff, AZ, every two weeks. They also looked at E.coli data from urine and blood samples at Flagstaff Medical Center for the year.

E.coli accounts for 85% of urinary tract infections, The Post reported, and researchers concluded that 8% of these cases were food-borne. Study authors did not discuss prevention approaches.

UTIs can affect the kidneys, bladder, or urethra, with the course of an illness ranging from no symptoms to uncomfortable burning to potentially permanent damage to kidney function, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Show Sources

UCSF Health: “Urinary Tract Infections.”

The Washington Post: “Bacteria from meat may cause more than a half-million UTIs, study says.”

One Health: “Using source-associated mobile genetic elements to identify zoonotic extraintestinal E. coli infections.”

The Mayo Clinic: “Urinary tract infection (UTI).”

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