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Antibiotic resistance is coming to dinner

11:04am, May 23, 2001

Bacteria that are immune to several antibiotics are showing up in a broad range of foods on grocery store shelves, new studies show.

It's a recipe for rising illness and deaths from food poisoning, according to data reported in Orlando, Fla., this week at the American Society for Microbiology meeting.

When virulent, the microbes can induce gut-wrenching poisoning. There also is a risk that, once bacteria mingle on the cutting board or in a diner's gastrointestinal tract, even benign bacteria that happen to be resistant to drugs could share their resistance genes with more dangerous microbes. Later, infections caused by the modified microbes might prove intractable.

Bacteria can develop drug resistance in the environment, in hospitals, and even within a person treated with antibiotics. However, animal agriculture is playing a disproportionately large role, says Burke A. Cunha, who heads the division of infectious diseases at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola,

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