Forty percent of fresh pork sampled in Denmark was found to contain livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA), according to a Danish study. Using whole genome sequencing, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration found MRSA in 122 of 305 samples taken last year from retail outlets. The last time pork was sampled (in 2011), S. aureus was found in only 10 percent of conventional pork samples, but this study showed 48 percent of conventional pork samples affected. LA-MRSA also was found in 38 percent of organic pork and 28 percent of imported pork (up from just 5 percent in 2011). LA-MRSA in organic pork had not been previously tracked. The increase in pork was consistent with the increase in pig herds, which rose from 16 percent in 2011 to 68 percent in 2014. Resistance develops through natural selection and can transfer to other strains of bacteria through horizontal gene transfer.

S. aureus is a large family of bacteria with many genetically diverse strains that can produce skin and systemic disease in people and are important foodborne pathogens. MRSA is any strain of the bacteria that has developed resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, which include the penicillins and cephalosporins. As Dr. Jim Wright, a veterinarian and member of the AUFSI Food and Water Defense Group, noted in an earlier article, a recent study at an industrial hog operation in North Carolina showed that  farm workers and their families may have had an increased risk of skin and soft tissue infections caused by livestock-associated MRSA. The sample size for this study was small, however, and the determination of clinical disease in the workers was based on recall after they were shown pictures of typical MRSA lesions. Nevertheless, Wright said, the risk of livestock-associated MRSA strains reverting to more pathogenic human strains after passing through people needs to be investigated. Basic hygiene and thoroughly cooking meat reduce the risk of infection in people who eat pork containing the pathogen. Read more HERE,  HERE, and HERE.

PUBLIC HEALTH

A ticking time bomb: By the time he had finished his walk through the woods in New York state, Rick Ostfeld—a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.—was ready to declare a public health emergency. He could read the warning signs in the acorns that littered the forest floor, a harbinger of an unprecedented outbreak of Lyme disease this year. Since that day in 2015, Ostfeld has been publicizing the coming outbreak. Thanks in part to warmer winters, the disease is spreading beyond its usual territory, extending across the United States (see map) and into Europe and forested areas of Asia. The outbreak Ostfeld predicted could be the worst on record, because the ticks that carry the disease have been found in places where the disease has never before been a problem, and where people don’t know how to respond. In theory, Ostfeld’s “early warning system” gives public health officials a two-year window to prepare—usually enough time to roll out a vaccination program. But there is no human vaccine for Lyme disease. New Scientist magazine asks “Why not?” For one thing, blame the anti-vaxxers, the author says. READ MORE

Brazilian meat scandal, continued: Slovakia found Salmonella in poultry meat imported from Brazil and decided to suspend sales of Brazilian meat in the country, the Ministry of Agriculture of the European nation announced last Friday in a statement. Seventeen samples of Brazilian meat collected in the capital Blatislava were non-compliant with Slovak standards, according to Meatingplace.com. Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture Blairo Maggi said last week that tests in meat samples collected by a ministry task-force in the 21 plants under investigation haven’t found signs of risk to human health. The tests found examples of economic fraud, such as amounts of water above limits allowed in poultry meat, and the addition of starch in sausages in excess of permitted specifications. The results of the Slovak tests are a setback for the Brazilian government, which is working to avoid an embargo by the European Union, one of the main markets for Brazil’s animal protein. READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

Toxic chemicals again used in Syrian war: A suspected Syrian government chemical attack Tuesday killed at least 100 people and injured 400 others in the city of Khan Sheikhun, located in the northwestern province of Idlib. An aircraft reportedly bombed a hospital receiving victims soon after the chemical attack. Mounzer Khalil, head of Idlib’s health authority, told Reuters the gases were believed to be sarin and chlorine. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack caused victims to choke and convulse, and some had foam coming out of their mouths. Eleven children were killed in the attack, all under the age of 8.

Khan Sheikhun is in Syria’s Idlib province, which is largely controlled by an alliance of rebels including former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front. A Syrian military source strongly denied the army had used any such weapons, but a series of investigations by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that various parties in the Syrian war have used chlorine, sulfur mustard gas, and sarin. Russia’s military, which has been fighting in support of Assad’s government since September 2015, also denied carrying out any strikes near the town. Syria’s government officially joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and turned over its chemical arsenal in 2013 as part of a deal to avert U.S. military action. Read more HERE,  HERE and HERE.