- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

SALISBURY, Md. (AP) Chicken feed could be health hazardous, and a Johns Hopkins professor studying antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the local poultry industry is recruiting poultry workers to find out.
A study in July 2001 found a bacterium called Campylobacter jejuni, common in some farm animals, in the intestines of poultry workers. Researchers want to learn how a strain of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria got there.
At a recent community meeting at Salisbury University, Ellen Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said about 300 people from the local community would be recruited.
"We found that workers who handle live chickens were at risk, more likely to be exposed to bacteria from poultry," Miss Silbergeld told an audience of about 30 people. "We want to enroll more people; [chickens] might be the root of exposure, and we might be able to protect against it."
Researchers hope new evidence puts them closer to understanding why poultry workers across Delmarva can't shake flulike illnesses. The bacteria are resistant to common antibiotics, such as penicillin and tetracycline, Miss Silbergeld told the audience. She said antibiotics mixed in chicken feed might be a contributor.
Miss Silbergeld also said a gene chip being developed will be able to trace the potential spread of the bacteria.
Her study is focused on poultry workers and community members who live near poultry farms in Pocomoke City and Georgetown. She took up the research after hearing that chicken growers, catchers and live-chicken hangers suffered with persistent flulike symptoms.
She said industry leaders could help research efforts by providing information regarding specific antibiotics being used in chicken feed.

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