Update: Low-risk MRSA found in East Anglian turkey flock

A strain of MRSA has been identified in a flock of turkeys on an East Anglian farm. Picture: PA

A strain of MRSA has been identified in a flock of turkeys on an East Anglian farm. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Health officials have identified a low-risk strain of MRSA in a flock of turkeys on an East Anglian farm.

Health officials have identified a low-risk strain of MRSA in a flock of turkeys on an East Anglian farm.

The checks for a routine poultry disease revealed the infection in a single turkey, said a spokesman for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

When further tests were carried out, the MRSA strain was found for the first time in this country in other turkeys on the same farm.

An official stressed that this was not the same strain as those that cause the healthcare associated infections that affect people.


You may also want to watch:


There was little risk of catching the infection from eating poultry meat as long as meat was handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to kill any bacteria.

Steve Wearne, director of policy at the Food Standards Agency, said: 'Any risk of contracting MRSA through meat from animals with these bacteria is very low when usual good hygiene and thorough cooking practices are observed.

Most Read

'All poultry should be handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to destroy any bacteria that may be present,' he added.

This strain of bacteria was relatively widespread in livestock in Europe, including countries from which meat is regularly sourced by the UK. There are no known cases of people contracting MRSA from eating meat, said Mr Wearne.

'We were looking for signs of Marek's disease in poultry as part of our normal surveillance,' said the AHVLA spokesman.

Prof Angela Kearns, of Public Health England said: 'There are many different strains of MRSA that cause illness in people but this is not one of the strains that we are overly concerned about given the very low number of clinical infections that have been seen in people.'

Tests were also carried out on geese, which were on the same farm but the infection was only found in the turkeys, said a AHVLA spokesman.

There will be more surveillance, full cleansing and disinfection once there were no longer any birds on the premises. 'Then we'll carry out more sampling and testing just to confirm that MRSA is no longer present on the farm.'

'We're not talking about slaughter of birds. It is not a notifiable disease. It is about managing, containing and then deep cleansing,' he added.

The LA (livestock associated) MRSA (Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is found in Europe. 'This is the first time we've found it in poultry and it is not high risk.'

It has been detected in other species including pigs and other farm animals outside the UK.

There is no routine surveillance but when the UK contributed to a European survey in pigs in 2008, all samples from herds in this country were found to be negative.

The infection rarely causes disease in people and in most cases the bacteria clear within 24 hours. It can potentially pass from animals to humans through direct contact or through dust in animal housing but is regarded as occupational risk for those keeping livestock.

Prof Peter Borriello, chief executive of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, said: 'LA-MRSA has been identified in livestock in a number of countries and is not considered to represent a significant risk to animal health and welfare.'

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter