MSRA found in pigs in England for first time

MSRA found in pigs in England for first time

Government scientists have reported the first-ever cases of livestock-associated MRSA in pigs in England [1]. The finding comes just weeks after scientists in Europe, where MRSA has been present in pigs for a decade, reported that the same strain of livestock-associated MRSA is evolving to become a serious hazard for humans [2].

Livestock-associated MRSA was first reported in pigs in the Netherlands in 2005, and rapidly spread throughout the European pig population through the trade of live animals. The UK imports few live pigs from Europe, but last year MRSA was found in pigs in Northern Ireland and this is the first-ever case in Great Britain.

Cóilín Nunan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said: “In 2007, when Britain’s pig herd was MRSA-free, we called for all imported pigs from MRSA-positive countries to be tested and for the use of the antibiotics most likely to select for the bacteria to be restricted. But Defra refused to take action and now that MRSA-free status has been lost. It’s scandalous that Defra still isn’t doing any proper MRSA surveillance of British pigs. Defra’s inactivity on this issue for years has allowed this situation to develop. These cases are likely to only be the tip of the iceberg. MRSA may already be much more widespread in British pigs since most pigs with the bacteria show no visible infection.”

Cóilín Nunan continued: “The latest European research shows that livestock-associated MRSA could become a much bigger public-health threat unless decisive action is taken. In the Netherlands they implemented large reductions in farm antibiotic use and the number of human cases of livestock-associated MRSA is now falling. This shows that restricting farm antibiotic use can have real benefits for human health. The British government should urgently take similar action here.”

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