LA-MRSA found in piglet in Northern Ireland of no great concern

A piglet in Northern Ireland has been found to have Livestock Associated MRSA (LA-MRSA), in what is reportedly the first incident of its kind in the UK.

An article in the Belfast Telegraph said the discovery had prompted calls from the government to take action on the overuse of antibiotics in livestock, as well as carrying out a full MRSA survey on the pig population.

However, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland (DARD) said the discovery poses no risk to the general public and is different from the MRSA strain that can be found in healthcare.

A spokesperson for DARD said: DARD is aware that the first case of Livestock Associated MRSA (LA-MRSA) in the north was identified several weeks ago in a six- to eight-week-old piglet.

DARD added that LA-MRSA presented a low occupational risk to those working in close contact with infected livestock, and was not a notifiable disease. Meat from LA-MRSA-affected animals is perfectly safe to eat, provided normal good hygiene and thorough cooking practices are observed, added the spokesperson.

However in a joint statement the British Veterinary Association and the Pig Veterinary Society said they were actively concerned with antimicrobial resistance across the majority of species, including humans.

While it has been established that resistant organisms in human medicine are primarily the result of antibiotic use in people, rather than the use of antibiotics in animals, any isolation of resistant organisms in food-producing animals is of concern, said the statement.

The case in Northern Ireland is still under investigation and it would be wrong to read too much into a single isolated case without a great deal more information. Perhaps it is worth noting that the LA-MRSA found in the pig in Northern Ireland is genetically different from the MRSA strains causing healthcare-associated human infections and it does not spread so readily between humans.

The piglet in question was one of five post-weaning animals being observed by the Omagh disease surveillance laboratory of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in May, it reported.

DARD said it was liaising with the Public Health Agency and was providing advice and assistance to those on the farm in question.

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