Despite all of the scare-mongering projected by Keep Antibiotics Working, there is no need to avoid pork consumption or worry that pigs could make you sick as a result of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), according to National Pork Board staff veterinarians.

The fact is, Staphylococcus aureus is a pervasive organism. It is part of the natural flora that is commonly found in nasal passages and on the skin of humans and pigs.

MRSA is a result of Staphylococcus aureus' ability to develop resistance to methicillin and some other antibiotics, says Paul Sundberg, DVM, vice president, Science and Technology.

MRSA has been recovered from skin and nasal passages of many animals, including veal calves, poultry and sea mammals. Some of these animals have not been exposed to antibiotic therapy, and several of these MRSAs might result from human-to-animal transfer.

In humans, MRSA is commonly found in hospitals. Disinfectants kill the bacteria fairly easily, but it is difficult to completely rid the environment of the bacteria, adds Sundberg.

National data suggests that about 2.5 million healthy Americans are carriers of MRSA. Being a carrier of MRSA, however, does not mean one will become sick or spread the bacteria to others, says Liz Wagstrom, DVM, assistant vice president of Science and Technology.

Recent reports of community-acquired MRSA infections haven't been linked to exposure to pigs, she points out.

Holland has reported several hundred cases of MRSA, but only a handful of cases have been due to cloned complex 398, considered “the livestock-associated type of MRSA,” she says.

Dutch and Canadian officials found MRSA carried in pigs, but it is not considered a pathogen in pigs.

To determine if MRSA is present in U.S. market hogs, Wagstrom reports the National Pork Board has funded a project with Leman Swine Chair Peter Davies, DVM, of the University of Minnesota. He will establish the prevalence of MRSA in swine veterinarians. Davies will also survey retail pork cuts for the presence of MRSA. The bacteria is not a known food safety concern.