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High Levels of MRSA Found in Retail Pork Products

Bacon (Robertt S. Donovan/Flickr)Researchers at University of Iowa College of Public Health and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis have found a higher prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA) in U.S. pork products than previously identified. The team’s findings appear in the online journal PLoS One.

MRSA is a serious bacteria, causing infections resistant to multiple antibiotics, which can be costly and difficult to treat. MRSA is often connected to hospital-acquired infections, which according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have declined in recent years. But MRSA infections acquired outside of hospitals, in communities and on farms, have been increasing.

The researchers collected 395 samples of pork products from 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey. The collection, says the team, represents the largest sampling of raw meat products for MRSA contamination to date in the U.S. From these samples, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria were isolated from 65 percent, and 26 samples — or about 7 percent — were found with MRSA.

The study, however, found no significant difference in MRSA contamination between conventional pork products and those raised without antibiotics or growth agents with antibiotics. These findings contrast with a prior study from the Netherlands examining both conventional and so-called biologic meat products.

Lead study author Tara Smith says the lack of difference between pork produced with conventional and antibiotic-free methods caught the team by surprise. “Though it’s possible that this finding has more to do with the handling of the raw meat at the plant than the way the animals were raised,” says Smith, “it’s certainly worth exploring further.”

Read More: U.S. Meat, Poultry Found with Drug-Resistant Staph Bacteria

Photo: Robert S. Donovan/Flickr

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