Recently, a livestock strain of the superbug MRSA, called LA-MRSA, was found in pork sold at two of the UK’s leading supermarkets, Sainsbury’s and ASDA.
Ninety-seven samples of meat, sold in the UK, were tested at the University of Cambridge and the researchers found that two samples from ASDA and one from Sainsbury’s tested positive for the superbug strain LA-MRSA.
This little piggy…
MRSA is a type of staphylococcal bacteria that has developed resistance to a number of widely used antibiotics.
Staphylococcal (“staph”) bacteria are relatively common with about 1 in 3 people carrying the bacteria harmlessly on their skin, usually inside their nose and on the surface of their armpits, groin and buttocks. This is known as being “colonised” by staph bacteria.
Up to 1 in every 30 people are colonised by MRSA bacteria. Like other types of staph bacteria, it’s usually harmless and not a cause for concern for most healthy people.
However, it can cause problems if it’s able to enter the body or it infects someone in poor health. MRSA bacteria are usually spread through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an MRSA infection or has the bacteria living on their skin.
The bacteria can also spread through contact with towels, sheets, clothes, dressings or other objects that have been used by a person infected or colonised with MRSA. It can survive for long periods on objects or surfaces, such as door handles, sinks, floors and cleaning equipment – making hospitals the perfect breeding ground for these superbug infections.
And because MRSA has become antibiotic resistant, it means these infections can be more difficult to treat than other bacterial infections, especially when it penetrates deeper inside your body or into your blood causing a more serious invasive infection that could lead to septic shock, blood poisoning, infection of the heart valves and pneumonia.
In addition, the bug is also most commonly passed on between live animals and it persists in their meat after slaughter, and can be passed to consumers through poor hygiene practices or if meat is not cooked properly.
With live animals still being imported relatively freely to the UK from Europe, these recent test findings raise concerns that Britain could be facing another food scandal. Especially since this is the first time the livestock associated strain LA-MRSA has been found in meat sourced from British pigs – making it a local problem and not one coming from the European continent.
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said the findings “must be taken seriously”, although the LA-MRSA has yet to show signs of causing a pandemic.
An ASDA spokesman said: “Our customers can be assured that we are working closely with industry groups and farmers to make sure that antibiotics are used responsibly in farm animals.”
Sainsbury’s said that the MRSA strain was “very uncommon” in British pork, and that it worked with farmers “to ensure antibiotics are used responsibly and are taking advice from leading industry experts”.
For now, it seems that the best thing moving forward would be to steer clear of any meat containing pork.
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Variant of superbug MRSA found in pork sold at Asda and Sainsbury’s, published online, independent.co.uk
MRSA infection – Symptoms, published online, nhs.uk