The Latest Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria: A New, Scarier MRSA

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We've done a lot of reporting on food safety here at the Life channel and on the potential safety risks of animal agriculture—and now The Los Angeles Times is reporting that yet another scare has arrived. A new strain of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as MRSA has been found in cows and in humans in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe:

A new strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, has been discovered in cows and humans in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, researchers reported Thursday. The new strain disturbs researchers because it evades one of the most commonly used tests to detect MRSA, which could lead physicians to prescribe the wrong antibiotics to treat the infection. The new strain of the bacterium is still relatively rare and, so far, no deaths have been attributed to it, the team reported in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. Its discovery in cows raises a new question about the origin of MRSA outbreaks, however: Are cows a natural reservoir for the infections or are they infected by humans who come into contact with them?

The presence of the bacteria in cows does not present a threat to the food supply because it is killed during the pasteurization process. But the infection can be transmitted to humans who come into close contact with the animals, and these workers can then pass the bacteria into the general population.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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