Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Superbug in cattle
A new strain of the MRSA "superbug" has been found in the milk of British cows and is believed to be infecting humans. Experts have ruled out any general threat to the safety of milk or dairy products. But they point to "circumstantial" evidence of the bacteria passing between cattle and humans. The discovery has fuelled controversy over intensive farming methods and the way antibiotics are used to protect livestock.
In the relentless drive for increased per animal productivity... dairy systems are becoming ever more antibiotic dependent - Soil Association director Helen Browning
The Soil Association called for a complete ban on routine use of the drugs, which is said to promote the development of drug-resistant bacteria. It also urged an end to the continuing economic pressure on farmers to cut costs and maintain low prices. Soil Association director Helen Browning said: "This new evidence confirms our long-held view of the importance of absolutely minimizing the use of antibiotics especially those closely related to antibiotics used by people.
This requires excellent husbandry, and much reduced stress on our animals. In the relentless drive for increased per animal productivity, and under acute price pressure, dairy systems are becoming ever more antibiotic dependent. We need to get farmers off this treadmill, even if that means that milk has to cost a few pennies more. That would be a very small price to pay for maintaining the efficacy of these life-saving drugs.
The Cambridge University veterinary scientist, who led the research, spoke of the tremendous financial pressure placed on farmers by the purchasing power of big supermarkets. Dr Mark Holmes and his team stumbled on the new MRSA bug while investigating mastitis, a serious and potentially lethal disease which affects dairy cows. The research has been published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a drug-resistant form of a usually harmless common bacterium, which can be deadly when it infects wounds.
The bug, often found in hospitals, was linked to 1,593 deaths in 2007 but since then the number of suspected fatal cases has fallen dramatically. There were 1,290 deaths in 2008 and 781 in 2009.
- Sky News