PARMA, ITALY – Factors that may contribute to the spread of M.R.S.A. (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in pig holdings in the European Union, have been published by the European Food Safety Authority (E.F.S.A.), which follows the publication of the first E.U.-wide survey on the occurrence of this bacterium in pigs.

Although most M.R.S.A. infections are transmitted through direct or indirect human-to-human contact, people can also be exposed to M.R.S.A. through contact with infected animals; this is in particular the case for farmers, veterinarians and their families. At present there is no evidence M.R.S.A. can be transmitted to humans through consuming or handling of contaminated food.

Larger pig holdings are more likely to be contaminated with M.R.S.A., E.F.S.A.’s survey shows. This was found to be the case for both breeding and production holdings. For example, the study states a breeding holding with more than 400 breeding pigs is twice more likely to be contaminated with M.R.S.A. compared to one with less than 100 breeding pigs.

E.F.S.A.’s analysis also highlights how animal movement may play a role in the contamination of breeding pigs’ holdings with M.R.S.A. — both through the trade of breeding pigs between member states and the movements of pigs between breeding and production holdings within the same member state.

Data further shows a positive correlation between the number of cases found in breeding holdings and those found in production holdings. This finding suggests M.R.S.A. is transmitted through the movement of animals between the two types of holdings.

More information should be gathered at the national level on those factors that put pig holdings at risk of infection with M.R.S.A. and on the measures that can prevent its spread, E.F.S.A. recommends.