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ALERT: Is the Superbug Spreading Through Contaminated Poultry?

Sep 24, 2016 05:16 AM EDT

The dangerous superbug called Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can now be transmitted to humans by consuming or even handling contaminated poultry, a new study reveals.

According to Science Daily, MRSA is usually found in poultry animals such as chickens, pigs and other livestock. People who work directly with these animals are at most risk of MRSA contamination. The newly identified MRSA strain that can cause serious infection and even death is the subject of the new study that was published in Oxford Journal  under Clinical Infectious Diseases entitled "Evidence for Human Adaptation and Foodborne Transmission of Livestock-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus."

The study was led by an international team of researchers, headed by Robert Skov, MD, from Statens Serum Institut and Lance Price, PhD,  a professor at Milken Institute School of Public Health, from George Washington University.

Lead author of the paper, Jesper Larsen, PhD, said, "This poultry-associated MRSA may be more capable of transmitting from food to people. As MRSA continues to evolve, it may spread from animals to people in new ways," as reported to Science Daily.

The researchers reviewed the national database at Statens Serum Institut where they discovered 10 cases related to MRSA infection. The cases were mostly found thd in urban areas of Denmark. Using a sophisticated genetic analysis that examined MRSA in the said cases, they made a comparison of the strain to those discovered in other European countries' people, food products and livestock. It was found that the 10 Danes infected with this new MRSA strain are not directly exposed to livestock; and that the strains are "virtually identical" to each other. The researchers concluded that these consumers has a common source, possibly an infected poultry meat.

According to the researchers, meat products are still "minor transmission route" for MRSA to travel to humans. However, modern farming practices, which includes giving low doses of antibiotics to animals for their growth and compensate overcrowding has caused the rise of superbugs, such as the identified MRSA strain in the study. Food inspectors aren't also keen on watching out for this strain, as they are more focused on Salmonella and other typical food-borne pathogens.

Skov feared that if the antibiotic usage in livestock cannot be managed well, new and more dangerous strains related to livestock MRSA will emerge and will create much greater threat to human health.

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