September 11, 2017 - Study: Livestock Associated MRSA Causes Serious Blood Infections in People

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Monday, September 11, 2017 - A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases has found that livestock-associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) can cause serious bloodstream infections in people.

Since being discovered in the early 2000s, LA-MRSA has been shown to cause skin and soft-tissue infections in people in Denmark and other European countries with industrial pig production. This is the first study to quantify the extent to which LA-MRSA causes blood infections in Denmark.

It was formerly thought that LA-MRSA was benign, causing mostly manageable skin infections in farm workers and veterinarians, but is now found to be just as dangerous as other types of MRSA and that it’s spilling off the farm and into the community and infecting vulnerable populations like the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Researchers found that the majority of the people who contracted LA-MRSA blood infections had no contact with livestock but did tend to live in rural areas.

Pigs are believed to be the primary source of LA-MRSA in Denmark where it has been found on 60 percent of farms. LA-MRSA can spread from the farm animals to people through direct contact with the animals, through contaminated meat that’s produced from the animals, and possibly through air and water near industrial hog operations.

US livestock can also carry LA-MRSA and US livestock workers are at increased risk for picking up these bacteria. Unfortunately, our government agencies don’t do the kind of detailed surveillance that they do in Denmark, so we have no idea how often people are getting sick from livestock-associated staph.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health and the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark through The Danish Agrifish Agency. It was conducted in collaboration among researchers from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark, the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the Technical University of Denmark. It was published in May 2017.

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