Scientists believe that a strain of the MRSA superbug found in livestock has spread to baby clinics and hospitals in the UK.
Three samples of the bacteria taken from a neo-natal unit and hospital in Scotland closely match to a particular strain which is found in livestock.
Humans and animals normally hold different strains of the dangerous MRSA strain CC398, which was investigated by the researchers. However, new evidence has found that the form found in livestock can be transferred from animals to humans and it has found its way into hospitals.
The leader of the study, from the University of Edinburgh, Dr Melissa Ward, said these findings place emphasis on the requirement for strict biosecurity practices in the food production industry, along with surveillance and infection control of MRSA in healthcare facilities. She said responsible use of antibiotics in both agriculture and healthcare settings is vital.
MRSA is known to be a serious problem in nursing homes and hospitals. The CC398 strain can cause serious and possible life-threatening infections in humans and animals.
Dr Ward and her team determined the full genetic codes of CC398 samples found in Britain and compared these with genetic data published globally on the same bugs from livestock and humans. The research indicated that the strain had come into the UK several times since the mid-1940s, however the original source remains unclear.
The most important evidence of the animal to human transmission was found in three genetic sequences of MRSA from Scotland. Two were taken from samples which had been taken six months apart in a neonatal ward in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, and the third was taken from a cleaning project at a hospital in Glasgow. All three samples matched the MRSA CC398 strains found in livestock.
The scientists concluded that their findings may be representative of the persistence of the CC398 livestock-linked strain in hospitals within the UK being transferred to humans. They stated that in this case more investigations should be done and more intensive sampling undertaken.
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