‘Superbug’ Transfer: The Jump From Humans, to Animals, and Back

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

News media outlets throughout the nation were abuzz last week with the report of new scientific research showing, for the first time, how a strain of infectious Staph began life in humans, then spread to livestock where it became MRSA, and then jumped back to humans. The study was published Tuesday in the online journal mBio.

National Public Radio’s popular blog, The Salt, noted in its lead story Tuesday, that “Researchers have nailed down something scientists, government officials and agribusiness proponents have argued about for years: whether antibiotics in livestock feed give rise to antibiotic-resistant germs that can threaten humans.”

“Finally, a smoking gun connecting livestock antibiotics and superbugs,” said a headline in the online environmental publication Grist, written by contributing writer Tom Laskawy. As one who has covered the topic for years, Laskawy was not understating the importance of the research. Read More >

Study finds new MRSA strain in European milk

cows-at-feed-trough

Researchers at Cambridge University say they have found a new strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in milk from England, Scotland and Denmark, which they are calling LGA251.

The findings – published online by The Lancet Infectious Diseases – can be seen as a further signal that the routine use of antibiotics in industrial food animal production is producing novel public health risks, and diminishing the effectiveness of antibiotics in human medicine.

Center for a Livable Future Director Robert Lawrence said the new findings “underscore the urgent need to protect the effectiveness of a critical medical and public health resource – and this unambiguously translates to the obvious step of eliminating the irresponsible administration of antibiotics to food animals.”

In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed that 80% of the antibiotics used in the United States are used in food animals.

The authors of the Lancet study stressed that current testing protocols would fail to identify this new strain as MRSA, and that “new diagnostic guidelines for the detection of MRSA should consider the inclusion of tests for [LGA251].”