News Stories

Migrating Geese Spreading Superbugs

This fall, like every autumn, we'll expect to see V-shapedformations of geese in the skies, honking as they fly southfor the winter. Now scientists have discovered thatmigrating geese may be spreading superbugs, those dangerous,antibiotic-resistant bacteria which are usually only found inhospitals.

Canada geese may be spreading bacteria such as E. coli andsalmonella wherever they migrate. CDC researchers spentmonths testing goose feces that dropped from the flyingbirds into lakes and streams in two states, trying to findout if migrating geese can pick up?and redeposit?E. Colibacteria. To their surprise, the feces tested positive forantibiotic-resistantstrains of this bacteria, even though the geese were wildand had not been treated with antibiotics.

It was discovered that the geese in a North Carolina flocktook a rest stop near a pig farm. The pigs were being fedantibiotics and therefore had high levels of superbugs. Thegeese were landing in a lagoon that was polluted by run-offfrom the pig farm.

Are humans likely to get drug-resistant E. Coli (a bacteriaoften implicated in food poisoning, which causes stomachaches but is not dangerous except in the weak and elderly)from bird droppings? Not unless they get near them, and it'susually children who wade or swim in the kinds of lakes andstreams that might be polluted with geese feces. Childrenusually have stronger immune systems than adults. However,this does illustrate how complex this problem is.

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