MRSA strain seen in English poultry

MRSA strain seen in English poultry. Photo:

Turkeys and chickens on a farm in East Anglia have been found to be infected with a strain of MRSA.

The presence of Livestock-Associated MRSA (LA-MRSA) was identified in poultry on a "small turkey farm" in the region, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said.

The department said it is the first case of MRSA in poultry in the UK and confirmed all of the turkeys will go into the food chain.

The risk of getting LA-MRSA from eating poultry meat is very low if the meat is handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to kill any bacteria, the department added.

The risk of the general public catching LA-MRSA from an animal is also very low, Defra said.

LA-MRSA can potentially pass from animals to humans through direct contact or through dust in animal housing, and is therefore primarily an occupational risk for those in contact with affected livestock.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), which identified the strain of MRSA, carried out surveillance on the farm on behalf of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

The AHVLA will revisit the farm after depopulation and thorough cleansing and disinfection to determine whether LA-MRSA is still present.

"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."

Professor Angela Kearns, head of the staphylococcus reference service at Public Health England, 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."

– Steve Wearne, director of policy at the Food Standards Agency

Defra said this strain of bacteria is relatively widespread in livestock in Europe, including countries from which meat is regularly sourced by the UK.

There are no known cases of people contracting MRSA from eating meat, the department said.

Professor Peter Borriello, chief executive of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, said: "LA-MRSA has been identified in livestock in a number of countries and is not considered to represent a significant risk to animal health and welfare.

"We conduct an extensive programme to monitor antibiotic resistance in bacteria from animals, through samples submitted to AHVLA regional laboratories.

"We carefully consider all cases of resistance identified to establish if these present any risk to human or animal health."