Defra acts on MRSA in animals threat

As reported by NPA at the time, recent research in Holland found MRSA bacteria – sometimes called the ‘hospital bacteria’ – in nearly 40 percent of pigs.
calendar icon 25 June 2007
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A Dutch microbiologist, Sander Leenders, called for research to be extended to all Holland's livestock sectors. The bacteria has been found in several people working on poultry farms.

In the United Kingdom, Defra says MRSA (Meticillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is an emerging issue in veterinary medicine.
But though it has been isolated from dairy cows, pigs and chickens outside the United Kingdom there is no current evidence that food-producing animals form a reservoir of infection in this country.

The organism has not been detected in farmed livestock in this country.

A study by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency to test Staphylococcus aureus isolates from bovine clinical submissions for MRSA started in autumn 2006 and, to date, several hundred samples have been tested, with no MRSA identified.

Defra says the guiding principle of its policy is to try and reduce the impact of antimicrobial resistance in organisms in animals on public health and animal health in a proportionate way.
It has set up a sub group of its antimicrobial resistance coordination group to advise on how best it can contribute to understanding of the role of MRSA in animals.

But it stresses the overall significance of the detection of MRSA in animals in relation to public health is not known.

Nevertheless it is assisting initiatives from industry and the veterinary profession, such as developing a code of practice for veterinary hospitals, assistance in harmonising testing methodology, and funding research to better understand the epidemiology of MRSA in companion animals and livestock and any role it may play in human infections.

Recently, there has been concern over the increase in reported infections caused by S. aureus strains producing the Panton-Valentine Leukocidin toxin. Infections caused by these strains are more likely to have deleterious consequences for affected hospital patients.

Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL) can be expressed by meticillin-sensitive or meticillin-resistant strains of S. aureus. PVL containing MRSA strains have been isolated from animals in the USA but, to date, none has been detected in livestock or companion animals in the United Kingdom.

Organisations represented on the Defra MRSA subgroup include: Animal Health and Welfare Directorate General, Defra; Veterinary Laboratories Agency; Health Protection Agency; Department of Health; Food Standards Agency; University of Liverpool; Royal Veterinary College; British Small Animal Veterinary Association; British Veterinary Association; Bella Moss Foundation.
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