Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) widespread in German pig breeding stocks

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are widespread in pig breeding stocks in Germany. The results of a nationwide study by BfR confirm the findings of earlier studies in Germany and other EU Member States. They are part of a study conducted last year in pig breeding stocks in the European Union. The results of the EU study were published today by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The BfR findings for Germany show: MRSA was detected in the shed dust of 84 out of the 201 pig breeding stocks examined (41.8 percent). People who come into contact with pigs through their work are frequently carriers of this germ. "Based on all the information available to us, the risk of infection from pork-containing food is very low", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. In any case, meat should always be prepared with careful attention to kitchen hygiene and only eaten after having been thoroughly cooked through. This inactivates any potential pathogens.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus are widespread pathogens. People mainly become infected with this germ in hospital. As these pathogens are resistant to numerous antibiotics, infections are very difficult to treat. Certain types of this bug may also lead to infections outside hospitals.

Almost all the germs detected in 2008 in pig breeding stocks belong to the ST398 type which is common in livestock. Up to now, it has only been detected very rarely in infected individuals in hospitals. However, it is also found in individuals who have professional dealings with livestock. This group includes farmers, vets and slaughterhouse staff. Although this type of MRSA has only rarely led to cases of disease in humans and animals up to now, the Hospital Hygiene Committee of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recommends testing individuals from these groups for the pathogen when they are admitted to hospital. This would avoid the spread of the pathogen to wounds in the case of surgery and throughout the hospital and via this path to other patients.

Although this bug can also be detected in the meat from livestock, the risk of contracting it from food is currently deemed to be low. BfR and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) came to the same conclusion in their risk assessments.

When compared with other European countries the proportion of MRSA-positive pig breeding stocks is relatively high in Germany. Nonetheless, MRSA was detected in pig breeding stocks in most western European countries that engage in intensive pig production. Future studies must clarify the contributory factors to this situation. On average across the 26 Member States which participated in the study, 22.4 percent of the herds stocks tested positive for MRSA. This is revealed by the report on the EU-wide study published by EFSA today.

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