Food borne diarrheal diseases cause almost 3 million deaths a year worldwide. Resistant strains of highly pathogenic bacteria such as Shigella dysenteriae, Campylobacter, Vibrio cholerae, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella are emerging. Recent outbreaks of Salmonella food poisoning have occurred in the U.S. A potentially dangerous strain, Salmonella typhimurium , resistant to ampicillin, sulfa, streptomycin, tetracycline and chloramphenicol, has caused illness in Europe, Canada, and the U.S.
People who consume chicken or turkey contaminated with fluoroquinolone resistant Campylobacter are therefore at risk of becoming infected with a bacterium that current drugs are ineffective against. Campylobacter is the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is estimated to affect more than 2 million people every year, or 1% of the population. Campylobacter does not make the birds sick, but humans who eat the bacteria-contaminated birds may become sick. Campylobacter can be life threatening in immunocompromised individuals. Undercooked chicken or turkey or other food that has been contaminated from contact with raw poultry is a frequent source of Campylobacter infection. People infected with Campylobacter may be prescribed a fluoroquinolone, but unfortunately the drug may or may not be effective.
Most researchers in the field of antibiotics agree that there is a need to develop molecular methods to detect resistance, and such research efforts need to be a priority. Also, surveillance systems need to be developed by using practitioners, hospital and private laboratories, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to detect new resistance mechanisms and to detect the development of resistance in normally susceptible organisms. This database will be useful to monitor trends in antibiotic resistance. Also, drugs and other means to deal with newly resistant organisms must be developed. Finally, it is crucial to enhance public awareness regarding the fact that the problem is real and that antimicrobial treatment is not always a good plan.