A DEADLY new form of MRSA is believed to be spreading from farm animals to humans – already the bacteria has been found in hospitals abroad.
It is the first time the bug has spread in this way and experts believe excessive use of antibiotics in factory-farmed animals may be behind its development.
“Farm animal” MRSA, as it is known, can cause a raft of illnesses including skin infections, pneumonia, bone infections and endocarditis.
The revelation raises fears about viruses and bugs moving from animals to humans in the way that Avian flu infected humans from poultry.
The new MRSA bug, known as ST398, could reach hospitals in the UK, causing serious illness and death among vulnerable patients.
The bug is not only in the animals but also in slaughtered meat. Scientists believe one way it could get into the UK is through contact with raw meat during food preparation.
ST398 was discovered in Holland when factory-farmed pigs passed it onto pig farmers. Now Government experts are carrying out tests to see if ST398 is in the UK’s pig population.
Doctors in Holland also found it had spread to patients who had no contact with pig farming or farmers. In one area of Holland 60 per cent of all MRSA cases are testing positive for the new strain.
Although ST398 has only recently been discovered it now causes almost one in three cases of MRSA treated in Dutch hospitals. Cases of animal-to-human transmission have been found throughout Europe. And scientists have discovered the bug in other animals including beef cattle and factory-farmed chickens.
There are fears the bug may have already infected people in the UK although so far there have been no reports of it in UK hospitals.
Approximately 60 per cent of the pig meat eaten in the UK comes from the Netherlands and other countries. A Dutch Government study has found that about 10 per cent of slaughtered Dutch pork is contaminated with MRSA.
Sunday March 29,2009
By Lucy Johnston and Martyn Halle
Source: Daily Express