New MRSA superbug strain found in UK milk supply

by JEREMY LAURANCE, The Independent  |  published on December 29, 2012

MRSA milk

A new strain of MRSA has been found in British milk, indicating that the superbug is spreading through the livestock population and poses a growing threat to human health.

The new strain, MRSA ST398, has been identified in seven samples of bulk milk from five different farms in England.

The discovery, from tests on 1,500 samples, indicates that antibiotic-resistant organisms are gaining an increasing hold in the dairy industry.

The disclosure comes amid growing concern over the use of modern antibiotics on British farms, driven by price pressure imposed by the big supermarket chains. Intensive farming with thousands of animals raised in cramped conditions means infections spread faster and the need for antibiotics is consequently greater.

Three classes of antibiotics rated as “critically important to human medicine” by the World Health Organisation – cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and macrolides – have increased in use in the animal population by eightfold in the last decade.

The more antibiotics are used, the greater the likelihood that antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, will evolve.

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