Vets in Northern Ireland have reported what is thought to be the UK’s first case of the MRSA bacterium in a pig.
The disease is potentially fatal to human beings and it is resistant to a number of modern antibiotics making it difficult to treat.
The MRSA bacterium was isolated in a piglet which was one of a group of five submitted to the Omagh disease surveillance laboratory of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in May 2014.
The farm had recorded 10% piglet post-weaning mortality due to pneumonia and wasting over the previous two to three months.
In a statement released on 28 July in the Veterinary Record journal vets said: "We wish to report the isolation of livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) from a postweaning piglet in Northern Ireland.
"We believe this to be the first reported isolation of LA-MRSA from a pig in the UK."
It added that the MRSA ST398 was relatively common in other European member states.
Abattoir tests had isolated the disease in 61% of Spanish pigs, 60% of pigs in Germany and 39% of Dutch pigs. [Source: Farmer's Weekly ]
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics is calling on the government to urgently carry out a full MRSA survey of the UK pig industry to determine how widespread the superbug is.
The Alliance is also calling for immediate restrictions to be introduced on the farm use of antibiotics classified as 'critically important' in human medicine in order to reduce the spread of the bacteria.
Alison Craig, campaign manager for the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics said: "The finding of MRSA in a UK pig has to kick-start the government into finally taking action against the overuse of antibiotics in farming. In the Netherlands, they have cut total farm antibiotic use by 63% in the last six years, whereas in the UK, use has actually gone up during that time."
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