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Saskatchewan researchers say broader range of foods need to be tested

SASKATOON - Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan examining a piece of squid purchased from a local supermarket found it was contaminated with a bacteria that's resistant to the strongest antibiotics.

Joe Rubin, assistant professor of veterinary microbiology at the university, says the bacteria was only found in the one sample, but he says it demonstrates there needs to be more research into a broader range of food products.

He says the squid could have picked up the bacteria while it was in the ocean or it could have been contaminated when it was caught or processed.

He says it's also possible the contamination came at the retail outlet; they just don't know for sure.

Rubin says the discovery was made while he and other researchers were testing a diverse range of food products.

He says Canada and the United States have good surveillance programs that look for antimicrobial-resistant organisms in food, but they focus mainly on pork, beef and poultry.

Pseudomonos is a type of bacteria that produces an enzyme called carbapenemase. The enzyme breaks down antibiotics before they are able to kill the bacteria.

He says the bacteria itself doesn't cause disease, but its ability to share the gene with other bacteria makes it a threat.

"If it shares those resistance genes and if it shares that DNA with something nastier, that's when we could really have a problem," he says.

Rubin says if an infection were to enter a person's system with the bacteria already present, it would be able to take its antibiotic-resistant gene and become immune to the strongest antibiotic.

"I like to explain it in terms of eye colour. If you had brown eyes and I had blue eyes and I decide I want brown eyes, I could take that DNA from you directly and then my eyes would just immediately be brown. That's kind of what bacteria are able to do."

Rubin says the best thing that members of the public can do is to focus on standard food hygiene measures.

"It's really important to prevent cross-contamination in your kitchen. Make sure to cut and prepare raw meat on different cutting surfaces and use different knives than you would for ready-to-eat foods."


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