MRSA in farm animals coming to the UK soon?

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Research published by the Soil Association reveals that a serious human-health threat already present in the Netherlands and other European countries, could spread to the UK. [1]

The 'superbug' methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is already a high-profile, persistent problem in many UK hospitals. Now a new strain of MRSA has developed amongst intensively farmed pigs, chickens and other livestock on the Continent. Farm-animal MRSA has already transferred to farmers, farm-workers and their families in the Netherlands, causing serious health impacts. 40% of Dutch pigs and 50% of pig farmers have been found to carry farm-animal MRSA. [2]

In the Netherlands, farm-animal MRSA has been found in 20% of pork, 21% of chicken and 3% of beef on sale to the public. [3] It has not yet been found in UK livestock or meat products, but neither the government nor the Food Standards Agency are carrying out any surveys of the most likely carriers, live pigs, chickens and imported meat. [4] Replying to a Parliamentary Question on this issue, the minister responsible, Ben Bradshaw, dismissed the Soil Association's concerns, '…there is no current evidence that food-producing animals form a reservoir of MRSA infection in the UK…'. [5]

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