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article imageHuman MRSA originated from cattle

By Tim Sandle     Aug 14, 2013 in Science
The MRSA strain of bacteria that causes skin and soft tissue infections in humans, and is linked to serious hospital acquired infections, originally came from cattle.
MRSA is an acronym for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is a bacterium that is responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans. Equally worrying, the bacterium is resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics. S. aureus most commonly colonizes the nostrils, with the rest of the respiratory tract, open wounds, intravenous catheters, and the urinary tract are also potential sites for infection.
The finding that the most common type of MRSA originated from cattle came about after researchers undertook genetic analysis of strains of Staphylococcus aureus known as CC97. This analysis showed that the bacterium crossed over into humans around forty years ago.
To show the connection, scientists sequenced the genomes of 43 different CC97 isolates from humans, cattle, and other animals, and plotted their genetic relationships in what is called a phylogenetic tree (a genetic 'family tree').
Not only is the species jump interesting, the resistance of the bacterium to antibiotics when administered to people may also be linked to the over-use of antibiotics in farm animals. According to the BBC, it is hoped the research will help scientists find out how bacteria is able to spread and cause disease in humans, and to prevent further strains from jumping from livestock.
The findings have been published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The paper is titled " Staphylococcus aureus CC398: Host Adaptation and Emergence of Methicillin Resistance in Livestock."
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