A report in the New York Times that sought to establish pigs as a source of MRSA infection for humans is “highly speculative,” according to Purdue University experts.
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) or antibiotic-resistant staph, is found throughout nature, according to Paul Ebner, a livestock microbiologist at Purdue University.
While it’s true there has been an increase in the number of MRSA infections, and that pigs and other animals can be carriers, the vast majority of infections occur from skin-to-skin contact with infected humans.
At this time, there is no proof to link MRSA in humans to pig operations, adds Ching Ching Wu, professor of veterinary pathobiology and head of microbiology in Purdue’s Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory. He says more scientific evidence is present to support the spread of MRSA among humans, and from humans to animals, rather than from animals to humans.
Studies at the University of Iowa mentioned in the Times column looked at only two farms and only one of them had the organism. Another Dutch study was also inconclusive, say the Purdue experts.
Ebner and Wu agree because MRSA is so prevalent, the best way to avoid infections is to always practice proper hygiene.
The March 12 New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, titled “Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health,” is available online.