Drug-resistant strain of MRSA identified

A new strain of the drug-resistant MRSA “superbug” that likely developed in cattle has recently been discovered in the United Kingdom and is infecting humans.

Dr. Mark Holmes of Cambridge University, who led the research, said environmental campaigners might be correct in attributing the emergence of the new strain to the over-use of antibiotics by dairy farmers, according to the BBC.

The scientists, whose work appears in the Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal, said there is no increased health risk associated with consuming dairy products.

Genetically, the new strain of MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is significantly different enough from other known strains that the scientists began calling it “new MRSA.”

Subsequent research by Holmes and his colleague, Dr. Laura Garcia-Alvarez, demonstrated that new MRSA can be found in cattle and humans, a development Garcia-Alvarez considers worrisome.

"Workers on dairy farms are at higher risk of carrying MRSA but we don't yet know if this translates to a higher risk [of them becoming ill]," Garcia-Alvarez said, the BBC reports.

The British Health Protection Agency considers the risk of being infected with the new strain to be very low. According to Holmes, probably fewer than 100 people are infected in the U.K. every year, but the number appears to be on the rise.

A spokesman from the British Food Standards Agency said that the study provided no direct evidence that humans have been infected with MRSA from cattle.

"The risk of contracting this new strain of MRSA through drinking milk is extremely low because the vast majority of cows' milk is pasteurized and the pasteurization process destroys all types of MRSA," the spokesman said, according to the BBC.