15 May 2009

MRSA in the House of Lords — the silly, the serious

Thanks to constant reader Pat Gardiner, we have the transcript of the UK House of Lords discussion on community MRSA, called there PVL-MRSA after the toxin. (Go to the linked page, and click down to the time-mark 3.16 pm.) It's encouraging to see some members of a government taking MRSA seriously. The members are asking for
  • better surveillance
  • better infection control
  • consideration of MRSA as a notifiable disease
  • and promotion of both vaccine research and point-of-care diagnostics.
Hear, hear to Baroness Masham of Ilton for bringing it up.

To get to that discussion, though, you'll have to click down through some silliness (the ghost of Monty Python is never far from the British government, is it?): a discussion at time-stamp 3.07 p.m. of whether a House of Lords restaurant can afford to serve British bacon, rather than Dutch bacon, given that British bacon is almost twice as expensive and Dutch pigs are associated with MRSA ST398:
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, although there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy about it. After all, I and many others on all sides of the House have argued that it should not be a matter of price. We have urged the British consumer to buy British bacon because of the higher welfare standards that are applied in this country. Will the noble Lord also take into account the presence in Dutch bacon of a deadly form of MRSA, ST398, which can cause skin infection, heart trouble and pneumonia? Is he not putting people in this country at risk, particularly as the strain has passed from animals to humans? Indeed, when Dutch farmers go into hospital, they go into isolation. Why is he putting the British consumer and those who buy bacon in this House at risk in this way?
The discussion quickly devolves into foolishness about British Tomato Week — but if you read carefully, you'll see that behind the silliness, there are serious issues at stake: animal welfare, farming standards, truth in labeling (the Lord Bishop of Exeter advances the very newsworthy claim that pork imported from other countries is subsequently labeled "British" only because it is packaged in the UK) and movement of zoonotic pathogens across national borders thanks to globalized trade.

Sadly, the leader of the discussion — the Chairman of Committees, AKA Lord Brabazon of Tara (no, really) — appears not to have been keeping up with the news, since he notes of ST398:
As far as MRSA is concerned, I read the article in, I think, the Daily Express a couple of weeks ago. I do not think that it has been followed up by anybody else.
Apparently the Lord's staff have not been keeping up, since MRSA in pigs in the EU has been covered by the Daily Mail, the Independent, comprehensively by the Soil Association, and by, ahem, us.

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