MRSA in the General Food Supply; We Are In Trouble Now…
January 20, 2012 Leave a comment
Beware; the food you eat can harm or kill you
Researchers say they have found that a serious antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is becoming more prevalent in retail pork products. David Wallinga, senior adviser on science, food and health with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), says samples were collected at stores in New Jersey, Iowa and Minnesota.
Of the 395 pork samples collected from three dozen stores, Wallinga says about 6.5 percent were found to be contaminated with MRSA. He believes the findings pose a public health issue, and says many people are sickened, and some die each year, because of MRSA.
“I’m not saying if you go out and buy a piece of pork you’re going to die – but what I am saying is that it’s in our food supply, and we ought to be taking action.”
Among the actions he suggests is additional testing by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so consumers will have the information they need when making decisions about food for their families. He says something must also be done about the overuse of antibiotics on farms.
New Strain of MRSA Found in Milk
The bacterium, a strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), appears to be relatively rare. It turns up in about 1% of MRSA cultured from humans in the U.K.
Researchers say it poses little threat to people who drink milk or eat dairy products like cheese, since pasteurization and digestion kill bacteria, including MRSA.
Any danger to people, researchers say, would likely come from contact with cows that carry the strain.
Whether or not the new strain may be present in cattle or milk in the U.S. is an open question.
“The main worry would be that these cows represent a pool of the bacteria and these bacteria end up colonizing people that work or live on farms and they take it out to the wider community,” says study researcher Mark A. Holmes, VetMB, a senior lecturer in the department of veterinary science at the University of Cambridge, England.
Of greater concern, they say, is the fact that this new MRSA strain carries a gene that allows it to elude detection by current “gold standard” polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that are favored by hospitals and labs for their speed.
“If you end up with a serious infection from this bacteria and your sample goes to a laboratory to be tested and the only means of testing they do is the PCR testing, you could be falsely negatively diagnosed, be given methicillin-like drugs to treat it, and they would be ineffective,” says Holmes.
As part of the 2010 Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance, Symposium 5 brought together experts in the area of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). An MRSA bacterium can cause infections in the blood, heart and bones of people with reduced immunity or during the use of drips and catheters. Research indicates that MRSA infections lead to excess mortality.
Dr. J. Todd Weber, CDC Liaison at the European Centre for Disease Prevention Control, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Stockholm, Sweden) moderated talks given by Dr. Peter Davies, BVSc, of the University of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN), Dr. Usha Stiefel, of Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs (Cleveland, OH), and Dr. Sheldon L. Kaplan, of Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Children’s Hospital (Houston, TX).
Dr. Davies presented on the topic of MRSA in Livestock: Zoonotic Issues. Conventional wisdom tells us that MRSA infections are largely caused by the over-use of antibiotics in hospitals, explained Davies. “Conditions in which animals are being raised today have created a quantum shift in MRSA epidemiology,” said Davies. These conditions have created a reservoir for community acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA).
Davies noted the emergence of The Netherlands as an epicenter of low MRSA prevalence because of their specific and strict policies regarding treatment and screening for the disease. According to hospital literature, high-risk groups are screened and patients are nursed in strict isolation.
Dr. Davies also noted a study findings from 2005 and 2006 which found that 39 percent of market hogs had single clonal group non-type-able MRSA while other findings indicated that between 20-25 percent of farm workers had MRSA, which is 760 times the rate of infection in the general population.
Grow Animals is Becoming Very Dangerous
Food animals get many drugs for many reasons. They get them for disease treatment. They get them for
disease prevention….Food animals also get antibiotics for “growth promotion,” a metabolic mysterious process that has made possible the entire high-volume, low-margin business of industrial-scale farming….The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that, of those 29.5 million pounds of antimicrobials given to animals every year, only 2 million of them are actually intended to treat disease. The rest, almost 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States every year, are “non-therapeutic.”
The process makes human-medicine experts furious. From their point of view, farmers are routinely practicing antibiotic misuse: giving drugs in the absence of disease, and giving them in such small doses that they kill off only vulnerable bacteria and leave the Darwinian battleground clear for the tough ones. Making it worse, many of the animal drugs are identical, or closely chemically related, to drugs used in humans to combat disease.
Mckenna explains that there has been a great debate through the years as to whether or not these agricultural practices are directly leading to drug-resistant bacteria that endanger humans. The ag. advocates have argued for decades that the direct link had not been demonstrated. Mckenna points out that, technically, this was correct for many years. Scientists had a hard time putting every piece of the puzzle together to prove the link because the chain of events spanned decades and a very complex processes of transmission. In 1976, Dr. Stuart Levy of Tufts U. was able to finally prove the link between drugged chickens and transmission of disease to humans handling the chickens. According to Mckenna, this led the EU to ban the use of a particular drug as an animal growth promoter.