U.S. Scientists Warn of Antibiotic-Resistant
Pathogens in Chicken Feed

U.S. scientists find superbugs in chicken feed
(Reuters; 02/26/99)

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - American researchers have found bacteria in
chicken feed that are resistant to the most powerful antibiotics and
could pose a health threat to humans.

In a letter to The Lancet medical journal on Friday, Dr Glen Morris of
the University of Maryland in Baltimore said the discovery of vancomycin-
resistant enterococci (VRE) in animal feed raised fears that it could be
passed on to humans.

"The identification of a highly resistant enterococal strain in feed
raises disturbing questions about the potential for penetration of VRE
strains into farms and food animal populations in the USA and subsequent risk of
transfer into human populations," he said in the letter.

Animal feed is not expected to be sterile but researchers believe it is
the first report of VRE from commercially prepared chicken feed in the United

Vancomycin is the last line of resistance to so-called superbugs that
have built up a resistance to most conventional drugs. Enterococci,
which causes intestinal problems, is a common source of infection in hospitals and
usually treated with antibiotics.

Scientists blame the increase in superbugs on the overuse of
antibiotics in people and animals. Medical experts think animals are the
source of superbugs that are passed on to humans.

The discovery of the drug-resistant enterococci in animal feed
means it could be transferred to animals and to humans.

The researchers did not say which company made the chicken feed or how
it become contaminated, but they said drug resistant enterococci was
widespread in at least one lot of feed.

{Reuters:International-0226.00106} 02/26/99