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* Purdue CAFO

March 13, 2009

Purdue experts on livestock and antibiotic resistance

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University experts said a New York Times opinion piece this week that tried to establish pigs as a source of MRSA infection for humans is "highly speculative."

MRSA, (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), or antibiotic-resistant staph, can be found anywhere in nature, according to Paul Ebner, a livestock microbiologist. While he said there has been an increase in the number of these infections and that pigs and other animals can be carriers, the vast majority of infections come from skin-to-skin contact with infected humans.

Making assumptions based on limited studies or information is a big jump and there is no proof to link MRSA in humans to pigs and pig operations at this time, said Ching Ching Wu, professor of veterinary pathobiology and head of microbiology in Purdue's Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory. Wu said there is more scientific evidence to support the spread of MRSA among humans and from humans to animals rather than from animals to humans.

A University of Iowa study mentioned in the Times column was a pilot study that looked at only two farms, and only one of them had the organism. Another Dutch study was also inconclusive, according to the Purdue experts.

Both Ebner and Wu said that because MRSA is so prevalent, the best way to avoid infections is to always use proper hygiene.

Ebner, assistant professor of animal sciences, conducts research into microbiology issues associated with livestock, including food safety and human health implications. Wu researches infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance and is on the U.S. delegation to address antimicrobial resistance in food worldwide.

Both experts are available for stories through the weekend. Ebner can be reached at 765-494-4820 (office), 765-464-9699 (cell) and pebner@purdue.edu. Wu can be contacted at 765-494-7459 (office), 765-491-0291 (cell) and wuc@purdue.edu.

The March 12 New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, titled "Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health," is available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/opinion/12kristof.html?emc=eta1

Writer: Beth Forbes, 765-494-2722, forbes@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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