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An Antibiotic Resistant Staph Infection Came From Livestock

Nov 03, 2014 06:10 PM EST
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The next time you're at a hospital, you may come down with the same illness that Bessie the cow had some years before.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, which details how a drug-resistant strain form of Staphylococcus aureus that is sweeping through hospitals in the United Kingdom has been traced back to numerous livestock infections.

Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as staph infection, is a bacterial infection that can result in pneumonia, food poisoning, toxic shock syndrome, and even blood poisoning. Skin infections are the most common, and are infamous for affecting hospital patients during long stays.

This is because staph bacteria strains in hospitals have been exposed to so many numerous antibiotics that they have become extensively resistant to treatment, sometimes impervious to even traditionally adequate hospital precautious. These strains are called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSRA).

A new MSRA identified in UK hospitals, dubbed CC398, has now been identified as a strain that didn't initially develop among hospital patients, as most strains do, but instead earned its enhanced drug resistance among livestock. Researchers are now using this as an example of the dangers in widespread overuse of antibiotics on farms.

Experts at the University of Edinburgh determined how the CC398 strain evolved using a state-of-the-art genetic analysis technique. For the first time, researchers unraveled the full genetic code of MSRA strains in the United Kingdom, and compared these with published genetic data on CC398 cases among humans and livestock around the world.

They determined with near-certainty that the strain developed among livestock even in the 1940s and eventually jumped to humans after becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant.

"Our findings emphasize the need for strict biosecurity practices in the food production industry, as well as continued surveillance and infection control of MRSA in hospitals," lead researcher Melissa Ward said in a statement. "Responsible use of antibiotics in healthcare settings and agriculture is of utmost importance."

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