09 June 2008

Closing the loop: meat, meat-eaters, health-care workers

A posting on the international disease-alert mailing list ProMED led me to a scientific abstract presented at a European meeting this spring on the ST 398 MRSA strain. It adds another, quite unnerving piece to the emerging interplay of MRSA in pigs, humans who have close contact with pigs, humans who have contact only with pig meat, and health-care workers who treat those humans.

Brief precis: About a year ago, Dutch health authorities discovered that a patient who had come in for surgical debridement of a diabetic foot ulcer had an unrecognized MRSA strain in that ulcer. Subsequently, they discovered that four other patients and five health-care workers in the same institution were carrying the same strain. None of the patients reported any contacts with pigs (or calves, which have also been found to carry the strain). One of the health-care workers lived on a farm that raised pigs, but said that she had no contact with the animals in her daily life; nor did her partner.

The authors conclude:
While the source is not fully established it could be the HCW living on a pig farm. This outbreak makes clear that transmission on a larger scale can occur, even with NT-MRSA.
(Hat-tip to Helen Branswell of the Canadian Press for telling me about the ProMED report. And a note to loyal readers: The "MRSA in meat" story is being picked up by some US newspapers. Doesn't it feel good to know you've been reading about the issue here for months? And if you're a reader of Helen's work, months more? Of course it does.)

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