The Guardian newspaper has reported that their investigations have shown a number of supermarket pork products to be contaminated with a strain of MRSA bacteria.
Prof. Nicola Williams, Professor of Bacterial Zoonotic Disease at the University of Liverpool, said:
“Current data does not suggest that livestock-associated MRSA is common among UK pig herds. Even if herds are infected with significant levels of the bacteria, the extent of contamination of meat with MRSA will be much lower than compared to food-poisoning bacteria such as Salmonella, so the risk of transmission to people will be lower.
“Adopting good hygiene practices in the kitchen, washing your hands when handling raw meat and cooking meat properly should minimise any risk. It is important to remember that even if someone does become colonised with MRSA it does not mean they will necessarily develop disease or illness. People can carry MRSA in their nose and throat without it causing an infection; however, it does mean that by carrying the bacteria you may be more likely to develop a subsequent infection – if you undergo surgery for example, or if you are immunocompromised.”
Prof. Mark Woolhouse FMedSci, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said:
“Livestock acquired MRSA is a well-known, but rare, food safety risk. It has been found in food animals, in food and occasionally in people for many years. It must be taken seriously but it has shown no sign of causing a pandemic and this small study does not change that assessment.
“However, the study does indicate the value of continued surveillance and monitoring of all food-borne bacteria, especially those that are resistant to antibiotics. Surveillance is our first line of defence; if problems do arise the sooner we know about them the sooner we can take the actions necessary to protect public health.”
Prof. Ross Fitzgerald, Chair of Molecular Bacteriology at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, said:
“The identification of MRSA CC398 in UK supermarket samples has been reported previously and is not surprising considering the high prevalence of MRSA among pig populations in some countries in Europe.
“However, even in Denmark, food-borne transmission of MRSA to humans is very limited. Cooking meat properly and washing hands effectively should prevent any impact on humans. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the presence of MRSA in pork will lead to a pandemic in human populations.
“However, continued and better surveillance of humans and livestock for antibiotic resistant bacteria is required to understand the dynamics of resistance at the interface between humans and livestock.”