It’s Not Just Beef: Plants May Be Spreading Superbugs

We are often told that in order to be truly healthy we need more fruits and vegetables and fewer portions of meat in our diets. Simply put – meat bad, vegetables good. However, when it comes to the spread of superbugs, it turns out that plants might be just as bad.

RELATED: The Case for Eating Red Meat

New research from the University of Southern California indicates that the dangers posed by certain plant-based diets may also be understated.

According to PhD candidate Marlene Maeusli, who is the lead author of a study most recently presented at the American Society for Microbiology, “Our findings highlight the importance of tackling foodborne antibiotic-resistance from a complete food chain perspective that includes plant-foods in addition to meat …” Maeiusli also said, “We continue to seek the plant characteristics and host factors that result in key microbial community shifts in the gut that put us at risk for colonization and those that prevent it … The environment and human health – in this context via agriculture and microbiomes – are inextricably linked.”

In essence, Maeusli and her team grew their own lettuce, subjected said lettuce to an unpleasant antibiotic-resistant strain of E. Coli, and then fed the samples to lab mice.

“We continue to seek the plant characteristics and host factors that result in key microbial community shifts in the gut that put us at risk for colonization and those that prevent it,” Maeusli said. “The environment and human health – in this context via agriculture and microbiomes – are inextricably linked.”

Of course, the biggest danger posed by these superbugs isn’t just bouts of nausea, vomiting, and excessive diarrhea. These types of bugs can lie dormant in one’s intestinal tract for long periods of time, with no obvious symptoms, weakening the immune system the entire time.

While superbugs and antibiotic-resistant bacteria can also thrive in meat, proper cooking of most meat products can eliminate these factors. Where fruits and vegetables are often eaten raw (and unfortunately, often eaten unwashed) the odds of a dangerous bug hitching a ride on a head of lettuce may be greater than you think.

The best you can do to avoid superbugs is to thoroughly wash your produce before eating, keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw meats and surfaces, and engage in strict handwashing procedures whenever handling food. That is, if you don’t want a so-called superbug taking up a stealthy residence somewhere in your bowels.

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