By CBS3 Staff


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Thinking about taking your children to a petting zoo during Easter weekend? Think again. New research is warning visitors about a serious drug-resistant bacteria being linked to the interactive zoos.

According to a study by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, petting zoos are an environment that multidrug resistant bacteria thrive in, which leaves people at high risk to contract severe illnesses – especially in children.

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Among the bacteria strains identified in the study were E. coli ST656, which causes diarrhea, and E. coli ST127, which causes urinary tract infections.

The ECCMID examined fecal matter and body parts – skin, fur or feathers – from 228 animals belonging at eight petting zoos throughout Israel.

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It found that 12% of the 228 animals had at least one extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) or AmpC-producing Enterobacteriaceae (AmpC-E), which are resistant to commonly used antibiotics, and 77% of the MDR bacteria was found in the feces.

About 25% of the animals were colonized by more than one bacterial strain, the study said.

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The study suggested that petting zoos install hand-washing stations and prohibit eating and drinking near animals.