Chicken transportation study sheds light
Anyone who's ever driven behind a truck hauling chickens knows to expect a powerful odor and even a few feathers in its wake. But poultry carriers also apparently trail an airborne plume of potentially harmful bacteria, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers.
The results suggest that motorists and those who live along roads traveled by chicken trucks may be exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the researchers say. They urged further study and possibly changing transport methods in areas of intense poultry production such as the Delmarva Peninsula.
Scientists at Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health tailed 10 poultry trucks on U.S. 13 down the Delmarva Peninsula in summer and fall of last year, as the vehicles hauled their loads to a processing plant in Accomack, Va. With the windows of their car down and the air conditioning off, the researchers drove two to three car lengths behind the trucks, so they could get a good dose of the vehicles' slipstream.
The researchers collected elevated levels of bacteria in and on their car, including some that were resistant to antibiotic drugs used to treat human illnesses. Their findings were published in the inaugural issue of Journal of Infection and Public Health.
Bloomberg researcher Ellen Silbergeld and others have previously reported that chicken industry workers and the public might be at greater risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria when handling live, raw or inadequately cooked poultry. Critics have questioned the routine feeding of antibiotics to chickens, which is approved by the federal government, because bacteria can develop a resistance to the drugs and render them ineffective in treating human illnesses.
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