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Methicillin-resistant staphylococci: implications for our food supply?

  • M. Ellin Doyle (a1), Faye A. Hartmann (a2) and Amy C. Lee Wong (a1) (a3)
Abstract

Food-borne intoxication, caused by heat-stable enterotoxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus, causes over 240,000 cases of food-borne illness in the United States annually. Other staphylococci commonly associated with animals may also produce these enterotoxins. Foods may be contaminated by infected food handlers during slaughter and processing of livestock or by cross-contamination during food preparation. S. aureus also causes a variety of mild to severe skin and soft tissue infections in humans and other animals. Antibiotic resistance is common in staphylococci. Hospital-associated (HA) S. aureus are resistant to numerous antibiotics, with methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) presenting significant challenges in health care facilities for over 40 years. During the mid-1990s new human MRSA strains developed outside of hospitals and were termed community-associated (CA). A few years later, MRSA was isolated from horses and methicillin resistance was detected in Staphylococcus intermedius/pseudintermedius from dogs and cats. In 2003, a livestock-associated (LA) MRSA strain was first detected in swine. These methicillin-resistant staphylococci pose additional food safety and occupational health concerns. MRSA has been detected in a small percentage of retail meat and raw milk samples indicating a potential risk for food-borne transmission of MRSA. Persons working with animals or handling meat products may be at increased risk for antibiotic-resistant infections. This review discusses the scope of the problem of methicillin-resistant staphylococci and some strategies for control of these bacteria and prevention of illness.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. E-mail: medoyle@wisc.edu
References
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