I don’t know who needs to hear this. But, wash your hands after using the bathroom.
Experts have revealed that failure to wash hands after leaving the bathroom is more likely to spread drug-resistant E. coli than consuming raw or under-cooked meat.
According to the study, the potentially fatal bacterium’s “likeliest route” is through human poop particles, which generally spreads through poor bathroom hygiene.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated nearly 3,000 cases of Escherichia coli. Researchers pinpoint one type — Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase (ESBL)-producing E. coli — as one that is particularly difficult to treat.
“Rather — and unpalatably — the likeliest route of transmission for ESBL-E.coli is directly from human to human, with fecal particles from one person reaching the mouth of another,” said University of East Anglia professor David Livermore, whose study is published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
ESBL-E. coli live in the intestines of humans and animals, much of which is harmless. However, some strains can cause symptoms of food poisoning such as diarrhea and vomiting, urinary tract infections and, more concerning, blood infections.
Livermore and his colleagues in the UK tested samples of beef, pork and chicken and analyzed those results against samples of human feces, sewerage and blood. They discovered that strains between the human samples were similar, but different from those found in animals.
They say this indicates there is “little crossover” of ESBL-E. coli between humans and animals, said Livermore, meaning it’s being spread primarily between humans.
“Here — in the case of ESBL-E.coli — it’s much more important to wash your hands after going to the toilet,” said Livermore, adding that appropriately cooking meat remains critical to avoiding food-borne illness.
Though many varieties of ESBL won’t make you sick, the ones that do are proliferating.
“Infections caused by ESBL-E. coli bacteria are difficult to treat. And they are becoming more common in both the community and hospitals,” said Livermore. “Mortality rates among people infected with these super-bug strains are double those of people infected with strains that’re susceptible to treatment.”
Unfortunately, even adults could use a refresher on proper hand-washing technique, according to a study by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). In 2017, they surveyed more than 2,000 people and found that 84% don’t scrub their hands with soap and water for the recommended minimum of 20 seconds. More disturbingly, 21% admitted they do not always wash their hands after leaving the bathroom.
They warn that failure to perform good hygiene causes more illness, which means more use of antibiotics, leading to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria, also called “superbugs.”
“If we can reduce the number of illnesses where antibiotics are needed,” said RPS president Ash Soni, “we can reduce antibiotic resistance by saving these important medicines for when they are really required.”
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