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article imageDeadly MRSA superbug now found in British pork

By Stephen Morgan     Oct 4, 2016 in Health
New checks have revealed that pork products made in the UK are infected with the MRSA superbug. The discovery confirms that the deadly bacteria is now present in the human food chain and is spreading from country to country.
MRSA is better known as a virtually incurable superbug responsible for causing thousands of deaths in hospitals each year. Now a new strain has been confirmed in pork, which has the potential to cause serious health problems, including death.
Last year, an article in Digital Journal reported on an investigation made by the Guardian newspaper, which revealed that the MRSA superbug had been found in pork originating from Denmark and Ireland. The discovery that it is now present in British pigs confirms suspicions that the new strain is spreading rapidly through Europe.
According to the Independent, the University of Cambridge tested 97 samples of meat sold in the UK and found that the new strain – MRSA CC398 – was present in two major supermarkets – Asda and Sainsbury’s.
MRSA is normally caught by hospital patients with poorly functioning immune systems and those suffering from serious illnesses like pneumonia. It is mostly transmitted by touch or inhalation and is resistant to nearly all antibiotics. Deaths have been mounting because of the difficulties of treatment and the failure to eliminate the bacteria from hospitals.
But now alarm bells are ringing in the medical community over the possibility that the superbug could spread to the wider population through meat products. Stressing how dangerous the new variant found in pork could be, Emma Rose, from the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, told the Guardian:
“It is extremely worrying to find LA [livestock-associated]-MRSA in British-produced pork. Scientists are now warning that the extensive MRSA reservoir in animals could ultimately lead to a pandemic spread in the human population. LA-MRSA is able to cause serious and potentially fatal infections in humans, and as the bacteria is resistant to antibiotics, it is extremely difficult to treat. What’s more, even more dangerous variations are emerging as the superbug evolves.”
One of the first symptoms is a skin rash that is "disfiguring, unpleasant and highly infectious." Although this new variant will not cause death in most of those who catch the disease, six people are known to have already died from it in Denmark and another 12,000 have been infected.
ITV news reported last year that the bacteria had already been found in minced pork and sausages from Denmark. Cooking the meat will kill the bacteria, but it can be contracted through handling it while preparing a meal. Farm workers and butchers are most at risk. But the problem is that once one person has been infected, they can easily pass it onto somebody else through everyday contact.
The development of the bug has been put down to poor hygiene and the overuse of antibiotics on farms. Export of livestock then spreads the disease to other countries and this is compounded by the fact that British authorities don't test imported animals. As a result, nobody knows how many farms are infected and the scale may much greater than we think. Denmark has exported 3,000 pigs to Britain in the last six years.
The Guardian article quotes Professor Tim Lang, of the Centre for Food Policy at London's City University, who warns:
"If we don’t have tight infection control and we don’t try to control the movement of live animals, infection can spread...... We need biosecurity, we need to tighten up this livestock movement. You may get cheap meat, but in the long term it’s going to add to your public health problems."
The existence of MRSA is not the only serious health threat to the public coming from everyday foods. Recent checks on chickens have revealed that high levels of antibiotic-resistant E.coli were also found in seven UK supermarkets.
More about Superbug, MRSA, Pork, United Kingdom, Supermarkets
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