Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have published a study showing that some meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bugs in UK hospitals can be traced back to livestock.
The study, which was funded by the European Commission Framework Programme 7, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance, Pfizer and the Medical Research Council, confirmed the presence of the livestock-associated MRSA strain CC398 in hospital patients.
“Our findings emphasise the need for strict biosecurity practices in the food production industry, as well as continued surveillance and infection control of MRSA in hospitals,” said the University of Edinburgh’s Dr Melissa Ward.
She also said the new research findings meant that the “responsible use of antibiotics in healthcare settings and agriculture” needed to be treated with “utmost importance”.
The research project was carried out by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, where Dr Ward is based, working in partnership with scientists from the Roslin Institute, and in collaboration with the Scottish MRSA Reference Laboratory.
MRSA CC398 has been isolated from many species of animal and has even been found in bulk milk tanks on UK farms. Many people carry the bacteria with no ill effects, although infection can result if their immune system is compromised – at which point it’s difficult to treat because its resistance to meticillin-based antibiotics.