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Animals: MRSA

Volume 475: debated on Monday 12 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he has taken to reduce the incidence of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in animals. (203489)

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has not been detected in farmed livestock in the UK and there is no current evidence that food-producing animals form a reservoir of infection in the UK. The organism has been isolated from dairy cows, pigs and chickens outside the UK, as well as in companion animals (including cats, dogs and horses) both in the UK and elsewhere. Ongoing monitoring of the international picture is being maintained. A 12-month long study to provide an initial overview of the presence of MRSA in breeding pig herds across Europe began in January 2008. This is being carried out under Community legislation. It is anticipated that the results of this study will be published in mid 2009 and that they will inform the direction of future work by DEFRA.

DEFRA's Antimicrobial Resistance Co-ordination (DARC) Group continues to provide guidance on policy relating to antimicrobial resistance. The membership of the DARC Group reflects a partnership approach and includes representatives from many organisations involved in both human and animal health throughout the UK. DARC created a MRSA sub-group in 2005, through which DEFRA is assisting and encouraging various initiatives relating to MRSA from the Bella Moss Foundation (a UK registered charity promoting awareness of MRSA in animals), industry and the veterinary profession. DEFRA has funded research to better understand the epidemiology of MRSA in companion animals and livestock and any role it may play in human infections.

In addition to chairing the DARC Group, DEFRA's Veterinary Medicines Directorate have used various means including legislation, publication of guidance and liaison with interested parties, such as the RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture) alliance, to achieve a co-ordinated and integrated approach to raise awareness of the issues surrounding antimicrobial resistance in animals and promote the responsible use of antimicrobials.