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Nightmare Bacteria Could Be Growing on Your Cutting Board

Illustration for article titled Nightmare Bacteria Could Be Growing on Your Cutting Board

Your mother's intense concern about you getting salmonella as a youth has just been put into perspective: a new study indicates that hands and cutting boards in hospitals and homes that have been in contact with poultry "remain a source of transmission for multi-drug resistant bacteria."

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In the May issue of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America's journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Dr. Andreas Widmer reports that he and his team have found that drug-resistant E. coli can spread in people's homes, not just in hospitals, as has been commonly thought. Researchers at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland looked at cutting boards and food-preparation gloves from private homes and their own hospital kitchen after they had been touched by different raw meats but before they'd been cleaned. The amount of scary bacteria found by the researchers is a little too high to be comforting:

In testing the cutting boards, researchers found that 6.5 percent of hospital cutting boards used in preparation of poultry were contaminated with ESBL-producing E. coli. For boards used in households, researchers found ESBL-producing E. coli on 3.5 percent of these surfaces. They also found that 50 percent of the hospital kitchen gloves were contaminated with this drug-resistant E. coli.

The researchers found that none of the cutting boards used in preparing beef/veal, pork, lamb, game or fish were contaminated with any ESBL-producing bacteria. They also found that the meat's country of origin did not play a factor in the presence of bacteria on any of the surfaces.

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"These E. coli are resistant to some of the last good drugs we have to treat them," antibiotic researcher Lance B. Price told Reuters. "The 'nightmare superbug' is just one step further than these."

Unlike other heartbreaking atrocities of the modern world, there is actually a clear solution to this problem. Do what the doctor tells you and wash your hands and cutting boards more thoroughly after handling raw chicken. Presto! You've done your duty for the day and prevented impending death for all of us.

Image via jugky61/Shutterstock

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DISCUSSION

This makes me think that my mother's routine, which she passed on to me, is unusual. I have a cutting board labeled "chicken." It is only used for chicken. The plastic containers I freeze raw chicken in are similarly labeled and only used for chicken. After handling raw chicken, the counter and sink are cleaned with bleach, all implements are washed, and I wash my hands as well. I don't understand why a few simple practices and thorough cooking techniques aren't keeping people from becoming ill in their own homes.

What are your practices, omnivorous Jezzies?