New MRSA superbug strain found in UK milk supply

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A new strain of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA (a bacterium with antibiotic resistance) has been found in British milk, indicating that the superbug is spreading through livestock and poses a growing threat to human health. The MRSA superbug can cause serious infections in humans which are difficult to treat, require stronger  antibiotics, and take longer to resolve.

Experts say there is no risk of MRSA infection to consumers of milk or dairy products so long as the milk is pasteurized. But there is a risk from farmworkers, vets and abattoir workers, who may become infected via contact with livestock and transmit the bug to others.

The first discovery of MRSA in British farm animals happened in 2011. This disclosure comes amid growing concern over the use of modern antibiotics on British farms, driven by price pressure imposed by the big supermarket chains. Intensive farming means thousands of animals raised in cramped conditions creating faster spreading infections and increased need for antibiotics. But the more antibiotics, the greater the likelihood of evolving antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA.

Common sense says to reduce the use of antibiotics to reduce the growth of resistant bugs. But to wean farmers off antibiotics, there needs to be better regulation so that big industry does not have so much power in setting up prices of goods.

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Credit photo:  Getty


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