Over the past 20 years, E.coli has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics. These antibiotic-resistant strains of E.coli contain extended spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs), enzymes that destroy antibiotics. While ill-prepared foods were long believed to be behind the rise of the E.coli superbug, scientists have found that one simple activity is to blame: failing to wash your hands.
According to a report published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, scientists found that the spread of ESBL-E.coli is directly human-to-human, and that people failing to wash their hands after going to the bathroom are to blame.
Researchers drew these conclusions after analyzing 20,000 fecal samples and hundreds of blood samples. The testing revealed that antibiotic-resistant E.coli was primarily found in human blood and fecal samples. Other strains of E.coli, which respond to antibiotic treatment, were primarily found in meat.
The Dangers of Antibiotic-resistant E.coli
Because ESBL-E.coli doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment, these strains of E.coli are serious and potentially life-threatening. The report reveals that people who become sick with an ESBL-E.coli strain have twice as high of a mortality rate than those who are infected with other strains of E.coli.
Additionally, because these dangerous strains of E.coli don't respond to antibiotics, it's difficult for doctors to administer effective treatment.
"The great majority of strains of ESBL-E. coli causing human infections aren't coming from eating chicken, or anything else in the food chain."
David Livermore, University of East Anglia Norwich Medical School
In order to prevent the spread of ESBL-E.coli, it’s important that you practice good hand hygiene. When washing your hands, wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Rub hands together, lathering and scrubbing all surfaces for at least 20 seconds. Then rinse your hands well under running water, and dry them using a paper towel or air dryer.
If you use hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand and then rub your hands together. Continue to rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until they are dry.
For more information on antibiotic-resistant strains of E.coli, contact your doctor.