Opinion Former Article

MRSA Action UK: Turkeys voting for Christmas over multi-drug-resistant strains of MRSA in livestock?

In a recent study comparing workers at industrial livestock operations and those employed at antibiotic-free livestock operations, researchers found that industrial workers were much more likely to carry livestock-associated strains of drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA.

First, it’s important to note that both groups of workers had a similar prevalence of S. aureus and methicillin-resistant S. Aureus (MRSA); however, it was overwhelmingly workers at industrial livestock operations, sometimes known as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, whose nasal swabs tested positive for livestock-associated MRSA and multidrug-resistant S. aureus (MDRSA).

The issue with the turkeys being destined for the table is more about holding the Sword of Damocles over our heads if you think about the broader issue of multi-drug resistance to antibiotics. Humans will acquire it; antibiotics are like no other drug in terms of its ability to transmit across species.

If a patient in a hospital bed takes an antibiotic it has an impact on the patient in the next bed, the hospital workers and visitors - who will all come into contact with the evolving antibiotic as it responds to the bacteria it is treating. In itself this may not be particularly significant to the people mentioned here whilst they are fit and well. However, where resistance begins to develop this could hold a problem for these people in the future. The risk is tiny, but it is always there.

So, the Government, Department of Health and DEFRA has a duty in our view to publish details of the contaminated poultry, as the public has the right to know and make a choice for themselves.

We have turkey steaks on our table this evening and we have no idea how this was prepared, it would be good to know, but until we understand more about how significant the risk is where our common endogenous companion Staph aureus is lurking, then we will continue our farming and eating habits in ignorance, and ignorance is no defence in law when we cause harm.

Derek Butler
Chair
MRSA Action UK
Tel: 07762 741114
Email: derek.butler@mrsaactionuk.net
Website: http://mrsaactionuk.net

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