Poultry meat can spread MRSA to humans, study shows

People can contract methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains from poultry even without direct exposure to livestock, according to research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and covered by Newswise.


MRSA is often found on livestock like chickens, pigs and other animals raised for slaughter. This puts farmers, farm workers, veterinarians and others in direct contact with such animals at risk of MRSA colonization and infection. However, people with no such exposure are now becoming colonized and infected with poultry-associated MRSA.

"This is one of the first studies providing compelling evidence that everyday consumers are also potentially at risk," said Lance Price, PhD, director of the antibiotic resistance action center at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

For the study, researchers examined 10 people in Denmark who were colonized or hospitalized with MRSA. Using genetic analysis, they found that while none of the Danes worked on farms or had contact with food animals, they had a novel strain of poultry-associated MRSA connected to poultry meat from other European Union countries.

"At present, meat products represent only a minor transmission route for MRSA to humans, but our findings nevertheless underscore the importance of reducing the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals as well as continuing surveillance of the animal-food-human interface," Robert Skov, MD, with Statens Serum Institut, Demark's equivalent of the CDC, told Newswise.

"I fear that if we don't get antibiotic use in livestock under control, then new, more virulent strains of livestock-associated MRSA will emerge that pose a much greater threat to human health than what we are currently facing," Dr. Skov added.

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