The MRSA situation is being monitored in animals and humans


<div>Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which is resistant to most antibiotics has become more prevalent among animals. In Sweden two dogs and staff at the animal hospital where they were treated had been diagnosed as having MRSA in October 2006. The origin of the infections was unclear, and MRSA was not detected in the families that the dogs belonged to.</div>

Evira is monitoring the MRSA situation in animals
In Finland MRSA has been detected  in horses and cattle. In Finland MRSA has not been detected  in dogs or cats. S. aureus is not a common cause of disease in dogs, and it is only found sporadically in samples taken from dogs. At the University of Helsinki Veterinary Hospital  MRSA  was found in horses in the autumn of 2006 and in May 2007. The animal hospital has supplied information about it in its own press releases as recently as 30.5.2007. In addition, in Finland MRSA was detected  in the 1990’s in one horse and two cattle herds  in 2005 and 2006. In a study conducted by Evira in 2006, related to the resistance control programme FINRES-Vet, MRSA was not found in cattle, and the finds mentioned were thus probably  individual cases.

The MRSA situation in humans is being monitored by the National Public Health Institute
Many microbes cause infections both in humans and animals and between humans and animals, and so does MRSA. The occurrence of the bacterium in humans has been monitored in Finland since the 1990’s. So far, the National Public Health Institute is not aware of a single transfer of MRSA from humans to animals or vice versa. The fact that MRSA is becoming more  prevalent among animals may still cause a new potential infection pathway along with the current ones. This is why the National Public Health Institute is monitoring the situation carefully. All of the finds of MRSA in humans are examined centrally by expert laboratories and the results are reported to the National Public Health Institute as prescribed by law.

The number of MRSA infections increased in the Finnish hospitals around the year 2000, and at the same time the infections became more common in long term care institutions and with outpatients. MRSA  is problematic, especially to patients in hospital care, old people and newborn babies, as the treatment of the diseases caused by it is more demanding than normal.

In Finland, the MRSA situation is relatively good when compared to the rest of Europe. Last year, a total of 1315 new cases of MRSA were discovered by the health system, and during the first four months of this year, 388 cases have been reported to the National Public Health Institute’s Infectious Diseases Register. Based on these figures, the calculated forecast for 2007 is 1164 cases.

MRSA bacteria do not cause infections more easily than ordinary staphylococci
Staphylococci are found profusely on the skin and in the mucous membrane of every animal and human being. MRSA differ from these ordinary Staphylococci  only when it comes to the resistance to antibiotics. This means that they do not cause infections or spread more easily than ordinary staphylococci. As  MRSA is detected  in laboratory analyses, it is important that  bacteriological samples are taken. The most important way of preventing MRSA infections is by good hand hygiene, especially in hospitals. This applies to both humans and animals. In addition, antibiotics should only be used when a medical practitioner or veterinarian has deemed it necessary. In this way the spread antibiotic resistant  bacteria  can be reduced.

Evira and the National Public Health Institute are monitoring the development of the situation in co-operation. The work group on antimicrobial drugs of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is starting to prepare instructions on MRSA for veterinarians.

For more information, please contact:

Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira
Head of Department Tuula Honkanen-Buzalski, +358 2077 24400, +358 50 382 7996,
Veterinarian Anna-Liisa Myllyniemi, +358 2077 24451,

National Public Health Institute
Chief Physician Jaana Vuopio-Varkila, +358 40 7185343, 
Doctor of Infectious Diseases Petrus Säilä, +358 9 4744 8557,


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