Claims that pork production is the culprit in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in humans are greatly exaggerated, according to findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a recent letter to House Agriculture Committee, the CDC said if transmission of MRSA from food animals to people occurs, “it likely accounts for a very small proportion of human infections in the United States.”

The CDC pointed out that 80 percent of life-threatening MRSA infections appear to be the result of patient-to-patient transmission in inpatient health-care facilities. Additionally, the “vast majority” of community-associated infections result from person-to-person transmission, it said. The agency also pointed out that it has conducted numerous investigations of community-associated MRSA outbreaks, and “in none of these investigations has animal exposure been identified as a risk factor for infection.”

The CDC has several infection surveillance programs for monitoring MRSA, including the Emerging Infections Program and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

Several newspaper articles and critics of the pork industry have accused the livestock and poultry industries of the recent rise in MRSA-related illnesses. “Statements connecting pork products and MRSA and linking the bacterial infection to the use of antibiotics in pigs are seriously misleading,” said Jill Appell, a pork producer from Altona, Ill., and president of the National Pork Producers Council. “Pigs are not responsible for the increase in MRSA cases contrary to the claims of our critics and some editorial writers.”

Groups such as Keep Antibiotics Working, which includes the Humane Society of the United States and the Sierra Club, are urging Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the use in livestock and in animal feed of sub-therapeutic antibiotics, which they claim are being overused and, as a result, causing a proliferation of drug-resistant “super bugs” such as MRSA. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., are sponsoring bills to ban certain animal antibiotics.

NPPC has been working to defeat the measures and is cautioning lawmakers not to adopt policies that could adversely affect the pork industry without more information about MRSA and any link it may have to pigs.

To read the CDC letter, visit NPPC’s Web site at www.nppc.org

Source: NPPC