MRSA on poultry farm declared low-risk

Government health officials have said that the livestock MRSA found on an East Anglian poultry farm is of low risk to the public.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), on behalf of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, identified the presence of livestock-associated meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) on the farm earlier this week.

However, Food Standards Agency (FSA) director of policy Steve Wearne said: “Any risk of contracting MRSA through meat from animals with these bacteria is very low when usual good hygiene and thorough cooking practices are observed. All poultry should be handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to destroy any bacteria that may be present.”

According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) LA-MRSA is not the same type of bacteria as those that cause infections in people.

Professor Angela Kearns, head of the Staphylococcus Reference service at Public Health England, confirmed this and said: “There are many different strains of MRSA that cause illness in people, but this is not one of the strains that we are overly concerned about given the very low number of clinical infections that have been seen in people.”

The LA-MRSA strain of bacteria is apparently widespread in European livestock, which includes countries from which the UK regularly sources meat.

It can, however, pass from animals to humans through direct contact or from the dust found in animal housing and is therefore an occupational risk to those in direct contact with affected livestock.
Andrew Large, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said: “The Chief Medical Officer is making clear that LA-MRSA is not the same as that which causes healthcare associated infections in humans. The risk of getting LA-MRSA from eating poultry meat is exceptionally low if the meat is handled correctly and cooked thoroughly.”