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MRSA food chain fear

3rd June 2008

Three British people, who are being treated in Scottish hospitals, have been reported to be carrying an infection which is an "animal variant of MRSA".

MRSA1

The patients have a type of MRSA known as ST398. This has been identified previously in pigs which are raised in factories in Holland.

Strains of MRSA have been discovered in pigs and other livestock across Europe. The ST398 type is thought to have originated in pigs who were given growth-enhancing medicine. 

A 2006 study carried out in Holland revealed MRSA was present in 20% of pork products, 21% of chickens and 3% of beef.

All the British patients did not have a "close association with farm animals, raising the possibility that the superbug has entered the food chain".

Previous cases of ST398 have shown that it is spread by people working closely with infected animals. However, chefs can get the infection if they have open cuts which attract the bacteria.

The Soil Association said the UK should test its meat supply as two-thirds of pork products consumed in the country come from Holland.

Professor Richard James, of the Centre for Healthcare Associated Infections at Nottingham University, said: "It is a concern. We need people testing pork to see if it's there."

The Soil Association said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should make public test results carried out on pigs.

Policy adviser, Richard Young said they suspected MRSA had been found in pigs in Britain.

"ST398 is no more serious than existing strains of MRSA, but it is resistant to different antibiotics, and where it is present it will make it harder for doctors to select an effective drug quickly. In some cases, that could be the difference between life and death," he said.

 

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