A study by researchers from the Netherlands revealed that feeding raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) such as meat, bones and organs to pets may be enhancing the spread of bacteria that often infect humans. The study, published in the journal Veterinary Record, aimed to test for the presence of dangerous organisms in animals, often known as zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens, in Dutch commercial RMBDs. The scientists analysed 35 raw commercial frozen RMBDs from 18 different brands in the Netherlands, one of the countries in the world with a high number of dog owners. They found that a dangerous bacteria known as Escherichia coli was present in several of the meats, eight products of the sample (23 per cent). The bacteria often cause diseases that range from urinary tract infections to life-threatening bloody diarrhoea in humans
A larger variety of the bacteria that produce dangerous chemicals was also found in 28 products (80 per cent). These are enzymes that confer resistance to most antibiotics, including penicillin. Additionally, samples also tested positive for Toxoplasma gondii, one of the most common parasitic infections of man and other warm-blooded animals. Nearly one-third of humanity has been exposed to this parasite. In most adults it does not cause serious illness, but it can cause blindness and mental retardation in congenitally infected children.
“The results of this study demonstrate the presence of potential zoonotic pathogens in frozen RMBDs that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and, if transmitted, pose a risk for human beings,” said Dr Paul Overgaauw, co-author of the new research from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The study may have been specific on Netherlands meats, some of which may have been imported. But it has relevance to Kenya. Parasites may routinely be killed through refrigeration, but scientists warn that bacteria could survive severe temperatures, meaning they can still be transmitted long after fridge life.

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