The ‘superbug’ bacteria Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) has been found for the first time in sausages and minced pork available from UK supermarkets.
A team of researchers funded primarily by the Medical Research Council bought and analysed 103 (52 pork and 51 chicken) pre-packaged fresh meat products, labelled as being of UK farm origin, from supermarkets in five different locations in England.
Two of the pork samples – one from sausages, one from minced pork – tested positive for MRSA.
Further analysis of the genetic make-up of the bacteria confirmed the presence of antibiotic resistant genes belonging to a type of MRSA known as LA-MRSA CC398. Other studies have revealed an association between clinical disease resulting from LA-MRSA CC398 infection and recent contact with pigs or pig farms.
As with other MRSA this type may be responsible for serious illness following wound or surgery site infections.
Researchers stressed that the discovery in food products did not pose a significant immediate risk to the public but could provide a route for possible human contamination.
Dr Mark Holmes from the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge said: “The public should not be overly worried by this as sensible food precautions and good hygiene should prevent its spread.
“However, this does suggest that MRSA is established in our pig farms and provides a possible route of transmission from livestock, through those in direct contact with pigs, into the wider population.”
"Even if you were to eat the bacteria, the risk of illness is small," he said.
"Lots of people actually carry MRSA in their nasal passages without any ill effects – it only causes health problems if it infects someone in poor health or gets into a wound."