News Stories

Don't Drive Behind Trucks Filled With Chickens

Researchers have found evidence of a surprising pathway for potential human exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria from intensively raised poultry: driving behind trucks carrying chickens!

Researchers found increased levels of pathogenic bacteria, both susceptible and drug-resistant, on surfaces and in the air inside cars traveling behind trucks that carry broiler chickens. Typically, broiler chickens are transported in open crates on the back of flatbed trucks with no effective barrier to prevent release of pathogens into the environment. These crates become contaminated with feces and bacteria. Researchers collected air and surface samples from cars driving two to three car lengths behind the poultry trucks for a distance of 17 miles. The cars were driven with both air conditioners and fans turned off, with the windows fully opened. Air samples collected inside the cars showed increased concentrations of bacteria (including antibiotic-resistant strains) that could be inhaled by the driver and passengers. The same bacteria were also found deposited on a soda can inside the car and on the outside door handle, where they could potentially be touched.

Researcher Ana Rule says, "We were expecting to find some antibiotic-resistant organisms since it?s pretty clear that the transportation conditions for these chickens are not closed or contained. Our study shows that there is a real exposure potential, especially during the summer months, when people are driving with the windows down; the summer is also a time of very heavy traffic in Delmarva by vacationers driving to the shore resorts."

The strains of bacteria collected were found to be resistant to three antimicrobial drugs widely used to treat bacterial infections in people. These drugs are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use as feed additives for poultry.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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