Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in food products: cause for concern or case for complacency?


Corresponding author and reprint requests: J. A. J. W. Kluytmans, Laboratory for Microbiology and Infection Control, Amphia Hospital, Location Molengracht, PO Box 90158, 4800 RK Breda, The Netherlands


The widespread use of antimicrobial agents, in combination with insufficient infection control measures, is the main driver of the current pandemic of antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens. The use of antimicrobials in food animal production also contributes, because resistant organisms and resistance genes can spread from animals to humans by direct contact or through the food chain. An important, traditionally human, pathogen, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), is currently endemic in many hospitals around the world and has also emerged in the community. Recently, a new reservoir of MRSA has been identified in food production animals and people in contact with these animals. This involves a specific clone, multilocus sequence type 398 (ST398), which has spread extensively among animals. ST398 has also been found in up to 11.9% of retail meat samples in several surveys from different parts of the world, posing a potential threat to human health.