The antibiotic-resistant staph infection known as MRSA kills more Americans than AIDS, and is widespread in the U.S. pig herd.
The bacterium that has become a serious health threat in the United States and Germany is referred to as community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or ca-MRSA.
“Ca-MRSA is resistance to almost all common antibiotics, which complicates treatment. And, in contrast to the highly drug-resistant hospital-acquired MRSA (ha-MRSA) strains, which primarily affect the elderly and people in hospitals and nursing homes, ca-MRSA affects healthy young people.”
According to a report last week in Medical Daily, a new, deadly strain of MRSA superbug has been found in British milk for the first time, and indicates the bacteria are spreading through the UK livestock population.
The new strain of MRSA known as ST398, is resistant to antibiotics and can cause serious and even deadly infections in humans.
MRSA ST398 was first detected in pigs in the Netherlands in 2003, and has become widespread in European and North American pig populations, poultry and cattle.
Large corporate farms feed antibiotics to pigs, chickens, and cows to stimulate growth and save on feed costs, so that healthy cattle and poultry are routinely injected with antibiotics whether they need them or not.
MRSA ST398 is one of a number of superbugs that have emerged in recent years because of the overuse of antibiotics.
Experts say the more antibiotics are used, the greater the risk the bacteria will develop resistance, and superbugs such as MRSA will evolve.
Medical Daily’s Christine Hsu claims MRSA has become an increasingly frequent cause of udder infections in dairy cows, and was discovered from tests on 1,500 samples. Researchers found seven cases of RSA ST398 from five farms in England, Scotland and Wales.
“Cambridge University scientists who first identified MRSA in milk in 2011, say that the latest discovery of a different strain is troubling, adding that it shows that the superbug is gaining an increasing hold in the dairy industry.”
Some experts insist there is no risk of MRSA infection to consumers from dairy products as long as the milk is pasteurized.
But as Hsu points out, the problem comes from farmers, vets and slaughterhouse workers who may become infected through contact with cows and could transmit the bug to others.
“This has happened in the Netherlands where the same strain of MRSA has caused an outbreak among residents in a nursing home.”
Moreover, healthy individuals can keep the pathogens under control. But the real danger from these pathogens manifest when an individual becomes seriously ill.
Mark Holmes, of the department of veterinary medicine, who led the new study, published in Eurosurveillance, said that the latest findings show “definitely a worsening situation,” according to The Independent.
“In 2011 when we first found MRSA in farm animals, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [Defra] initially didn’t believe it. They said we don’t have MRSA in the dairy industry in this country,” Holmes told the UK newspaper.
“Now we definitely have MRSA in livestock. What is curious is that it has turned up in dairy cows when in other countries on the Continent it is principally in pigs. Could it be in pigs or poultry in this country? We don’t know.”
According to the UL Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, human cases of the infection with the new strain have already been detected in Scotland and northern England.
“Common sense tells us that anything we can do to reduce use of antibiotics will reduce the growth of resistant bugs,” said Holmes. “We want to wean our farmers off antibiotics and the only way we can do that is with better regulation.”