LA-MRSA discovered in piglet in Northern Ireland

By Georgi Gyton

- Last updated on GMT

LA-MRSA was found in a six- to eight-week piglet in Northern Ireland
LA-MRSA was found in a six- to eight-week piglet in Northern Ireland

Related tags Antibiotic resistance Livestock Pork

News has emerged from Northern Ireland that a piglet has been found to have Livestock Associated MRSA (LA-MRSA), in what is the first case of its kind in the country.

It follows the news last week that Norway’s food safety authority, Mattilsynet, had ordered the destruction of a herd of 600 pigs in Vestre Toten, due to the discovery of MRSA in the herd.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland (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."

However the Department said the discovery posed no risk to the general public and was different from the strain that can be found in healthcare. This point was echoed by both the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS), which said the LA-MRSA found in the pig is genetically different from the MRSA strains causing healthcare-associated human infections and it does not spread so readily between humans.

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.

The discovery of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria has prompted calls for further investigation into the use of antibiotics.

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".

The two organisations said that while it has been established that resistant organisms in human medicine were largely the result of antibiotic use in people, "any isolation of resistant organisms in food producing animals is of concern". 

"We have welcomed the UK Five-Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy (2013-2018) and we are firmly of the opinion that the ‘One Health’ approach of medical and veterinary professionals working together will be crucial to the success of the Strategy,"​ 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,"​ it added.

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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