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New strain of MRSA found in cows

3rd June 2011

Scientists say they have discovered a new strain of MRSA in British cows and fear that it is infecting humans.

MRSA1

Researchers, who published their results in Lancet Infectious Diseases, say there is no additional risk from milk or dairy products.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a drug-resistant form of a usually harmless bacterium which can be deadly when it infects wounds. While the 35-plus strains are genetically very similar, there is a suggestion that the new form may have emerged from cows.

Antibiotics are used by dairy farmers to treat cows with mastitis.

Dr Mark Holmes of Cambridge University, who led the research, said driving cows harder to produce more milk leads to more mastitis.

With colleague Dr Laura Garcia-Alvarez, he discovered the new strain while studying a bacterium known to cause mastitis in cows and also that it was resistant to commonly used antibiotics. The strain was also present in humans.

The Soil Association said dairy systems were becoming more antibiotic dependent and wants a ban on routine use of antibiotics in farming.

National Farmers’ Union chief dairy adviser Rob Newberry said that veterinary medicines are administered as little as possible "but as much as necessary".

The Health Protection Agency said the risk of becoming infected with the new strain was very low.

The Department of Health said it understood the new form of MRSA was rare in the UK and not causing infections in humans but will be reviewed by its expert panel to consider "potential medical, veterinary and food safety issues".

 

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