Warning on ST398: Monitor this now

Drawing your attention: I have a story up tonight at CIDRAP on a new paper by Dr. Jan Kluytmans, a Dutch physician and microbiologist and one of the lead researchers tracking “pig MRSA,” ST398. (All past stories on ST398 here.) It’s a review paper, which is to say that it summarizes key existing findings rather than presenting original research.

Still, it’s important reading because Kluytmans is one of the few scientists who have some history with this bug and understand how quickly and unpredictably it has spread across borders and oceans, from pigs to other livestock, to pig farmers and veterinarians, into health care workers and hospital patients who have no known livestock contact, and now into retail meat in Europe, Canada and the United States.

Take-away: A plea and warning for better surveillance, so that we can track not only the bug’s vast range, but also its evolution as it moves into new ecological niches — including humans who are buying that retail meat and possibly becoming colonized with it as they prep it for cooking in their home kitchens.

To honor fair use (and in hopes you’ll kindly click over to CIDRAP), I won’t quote much, but here’s the walk-off:

Because the novel strain has spread so widely and has already been identified as a cause of hospital outbreaks, it should not be allowed to spread further without surveillance, Kluytmans argues.”It is unlikely that this reservoir will be eradicated easily,” he writes. “Considering the potential implications of the reservoir in food production animals and the widespread presence in meat, the epidemiology of [MRSA] ST398 in humans needs to be monitored carefully.”

The cite is: Kluytmans JAJW. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in food products: cause for concern or case for complacency? Clin Microbiol Infect 2010 Jan;16(1):11-5. The abstract is here.


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