photo: Anthony Albright/Creative Commons
In the first national study of the US meat supply looking at drug resistant strains of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, just under 25% of of samples were found to contain the so-called superbug. Where did the superbug come from? According to the report by the Translational Genomics Research Institute, factory farms. After looking at 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey in stores across the US, representing 80 different brands, 47% of those samples were contaminated by S. aureus and 52% of those contaminated were resistant to "at least three classes of antibiotics" and sometimes as many as nine.
Staphylococcus aureus colonies on blood agar. Note the golden yellow pigment and beta hemolysis around it. Image: Wikipedia.
TGen says that, "Densely-stocked industrial farms, where food animals are steadily fed low doses of antibiotics, are ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to humans."
According to recent analysis, 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are used on farm animals, an increase of 10 percentage points over the past decade.
Though the Staph bacteria can be killed by normal cooking, the report reminds us that it still may contaminate surfaces and other food items during handling. If untreated it can cause illnesses ranging from skin infections to life-threatening disease.