Guidelines published on the prevention and control of MRSA infections in animals


<p>The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has published guidelines on how to prevent and control meticillin-resistant <em>Staphylococcus aureus</em> (MRSA) infections in animals. The purpose is to provide information on MRSA in animals as well as on how to treat an animal that has been infected with MRSA. The guidelines emphasise the importance of infection prevention in controlling MRSA.</p>

MRSA has been causing hospital infections to people since the 1960s. However, its incidence has changed in the last few decades and, since the 1990s, MRSA has also been identified in outpatients. In the last few years, incidence of MRSA among animals has also been increasing. MRSA infections have been identified in several different animal species in Finland as well. In horses, findings have primarily been associated with epidemics at animal hospitals. Growing incidence of MRSA in animals can also affect the MRSA situation among humans.

Increased incidence of human MRSA infections has probably led to the spread of these bacteria strains among pets and in animal hospitals. Accordingly, cases of MRSA in pets primarily involve MRSA strains that occur in humans. The new MRSA-CC398 strain, which apparently developed in pigs, has been identified as spreading in pigs in Europe as well. Infections of this so-called pig-type MRSA have also been identified in other animal species as well as in people. Human infections have primarily been associated with work-related exposure in pig farm employees.

Occurrence of MRSA in Finnish pigs is being studied at present. Samples of environmental dust collected at pig production farms were examined in 2008; pig-type MRSA was identified in one farm's sample. According to this finding, it was estimated that MRSA might be found at some individual (6-7) pig production farms in Finland. This research has been followed up with studies of samples taken from slaughtered pigs from September 2009 onwards. So far, the investigations have revealed primarily the pig-type MRSA in pigs originating from a few farms. The affected farms have been informed of the findings. Research data is still insufficient to provide a foundation for an estimate of the prevalence of MRSA at pig farms in Finland, but it has already revealed that MRSA is found in Finnish pigs, too.

Food products manufactured from raw materials that contain MRSA bacteria do not pose a health hazard for humans.

The guidelines were written for Finnish conditions and are meant primarily for veterinary practitioners. They were drafted in cooperation with Finnish medical and veterinary experts with the aim of steering our country's human and animal health care practices in a way that provides mutual support.

The guidelines are in Finnish.

Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – guidelines on preventing and controlling infections in animals (Evira)

Further information
Guidelines for veterinarians: Senior Officer Henriette Helin-Soilevaara, tel. +358 20 77 24224
MRSA research on animals: Head of Antibiotics Section Anna-Liisa Myllyniemi, tel. +358 20 77 24451

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