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Medicine United Kingdom Science

New Superbug Strain Found In Cows and People 144

Posted by Soulskill
from the biological-warfare-in-the-bovine-revolution dept.
sciencehabit writes "A novel form of deadly drug-resistant bacteria that hides from a standard test has turned up in Europe. Researchers found the so-called MRSA strain in both dairy cows and humans in the United Kingdom, suggesting that it might be passed from dairies to the general population. But before you toss your milk, don't panic: The superbug isn't a concern in pasteurized dairy products."
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New Superbug Strain Found In Cows and People

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  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @07:22PM (#36338836)
    break.

    IT SPREADS FROM MILK TO PEOPLE? DUMP ALL MILK.

    It doesn't even matter if it's pasteurized. How many people in the general population even know what pasteurization means? Some food purists only know that the process makes food taste a little different, even if it's healthier as a result.

    • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @07:31PM (#36338876)

      How many people in the general population even know what pasteurization means?

      It clearly refers to free-range milk. You know, letting it wander around in the pasture all day. Pasteurization.

      Thanks, I'll be here all week.

      • It's even funnier because it is so ironic.

      • Ahhh, it's that whole bio-fad, then?

        Well, thanks for the info, I'll go for pasteurized then. Thank god you informed me so I know what milk I can still drink! Can you imagine, just lately I've seen a label on milk about it being "homogenized", and I don't want homo genes in my food!

      • Almost, but not quite. It's free range because the cows can walk around past-your-eyes.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      Better than the folks around here* who specifically seek out unpasteurized "raw milk" like it's some sort of magic formula and feed it to infants. (This is why there are liability concerns and why various state legislatures feel a need to prohibit the sale of raw milk.)

      Don't you love pseudo-religious "environmentalism"?**

      (*people near San Francisco, and especially Marin County to the north.)(** a brand of new-age spirituality also associated with the likes of homeopathy. as opposed to, you know, real e

      • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @01:27AM (#36340432) Journal

        You don't even see the problem in your post, because it is so ingrained into our society.

        Your first sentence is fine. Make fun of those people all you want. It is your second (perens) is where the problem is. WHY is there liability for RAW milk, in such a way that a STATE feels like it needs to regulate it by laws? You realize that this line of thinking is why we call it the "Nanny State", right?

        • by Zorpheus (857617)
          Are you suggesting that every harmful substance can be sold in the supermarket? I prefer that I can go shopping and that I can just try whatever looks good, without needing to be worried that one of these things is a big health risk.
          • DiHydrogenMonoxide is deadly if mishandled, it should be regulated. It is also used in Torture, which means we should ban it completely.

            You can drink Pasteurized milk, and nobody is stopping you.You've made the mistake of confusing having a choice as preventing you from making it.

            • by Samus (1382)

              H2O is regulated. The government sets standards for its purity levels somewhat based on scientific studies. They set regulations on things like just how much arsenic in the water is safe to drink. I'm rather glad they don't take a Libertarian/Tea Party stance and leave it up to industry/big business to decide that for me. I for one am happy that for the most part I don't have to worry about my kids drinking tap water.

        • by torgis (840592)
          I find it, well, confusing, that you can be fined or jailed for selling milk directly from a cow. But cigarettes and alcohol are perfectly legal. The former could make you sick if mishandled, the latter two are known poisons and carcinogens and have been scientifically proven to be bad for you. If I'm legally allowed to poison myself with alcohol, I should also legally be allowed to (possibly) poison myself with raw milk. Nanny state indeed.
      • OK, so some nutjobs thinks pasteurized *insert whatever* is bad for you somehow (as opposed to just tasting different and maybe having a little more in the way of vitamins/enzymes/whatever). BUT, your missing a point here, it's a personal freedom thing. If I want to buy milk that hasn't been pasteurized for the taste (btw, it does taste very different, many say better), knowing full well the risks (up to and including death, though usually NOT death), why the hell shouldn't I be able to. I can get raw me
    • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @10:27PM (#36339716) Homepage

      This guy does not need to be marked as troll. He's right. People don't know what pasteurization is. Ask someone. And many "food purists" think raw milk is better. (It is under extremely controlled situations and if your immune system is capable of handling 'variations' as they occur! hint: many people are so clean that a common cold is a a pygmy disaster waiting to happen to them)

      And yes, he is also correct in pointing out that people over-react wildly and stupidly. Maybe not the slashdot crowd, but most definitely the fox-news crowd among others.

      • by BlackBloq (702158)
        You know this how? What an ill informed opinion. As a grocery manager I can tell you people do know what it is and ask about it all the time. There is raw cheese legal to sell as I do at my store. Sign under it says "This product is made from RAW milk". So it sells more. There is a raw milk 'movement' (think bowels). They have to buy direct from farmers and it's a legal grey area. They seem kinda nuts to me though. Yes they really do know what pasteurization is. A LOT of ppl look for raw juice to keep the e
    • by BlackBloq (702158)
      I sell raw cheese but am personally vegan!@
      Kinda funny! But not really.
  • "... in pasteurized dairy products."

    Right. As if the only route by which this organism could get to humans is through dairy products. Scenario: dairy worker, gets scratched and infected with superbug at work, sees doctor for treatment (unsuccessful), enters hospital for treatment, infection spreads, becomes one more nocosomial infection we have to deal with.

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @07:36PM (#36338900) Homepage Journal
      I'm pretty sure you may want to read the sentence that comes before that one. No one's saying it's not a concern, just that it doesn't survive the pasteurization process. Which makes sense, because pasteurization involves a great deal of heat, and the kind of microbes that infect the human body tend not to do well with extreme levels of heat.
      • Well, fair enough and point taken. I misconstrued the quoted sentence as happytalk intended to minimize the hazards of a new MRSA strain and conflated it with my long-standing concerns with the near-universal use of antibiotics in raising animals in the meat and dairy industries.

        • In another world, that might be a fair and major concern, but considering that this is a piece of science journalism intended to notify the public about something bad, it's a very high priority to prevent mass panic. If the article sought to trivialize the threat posed by antibiotic abuse, it probably wouldn't use the word 'superbug,' which has become tightly connected with factory farming and hospital hypersterilization.
  • And there it is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @07:36PM (#36338902) Homepage

    Not long ago, there was a story about a group suing the FDA to stop antibiotic use on cows. [slashdot.org]

    It has been known for a long time that the continuous use of antibiotics lead to the cultivation of "superbugs." And here we have it now.

    Will the FDA actually take notice on this issue now? We'll see I guess...

    • Re:And there it is (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Haedrian (1676506) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @07:42PM (#36338932)

      But think of the profit loss! You think this country was founded on the principles of taking care of future generations?

      Gimmie my quick buck and to hell with the future.

      Yes I'm being satirical but its pretty much how everything works. From superbugs to climate change to renewable resources to giving away liberties to fight the 'secret new enemy'

      • Thats funny, I dont think it was founded on either of those principals. I rather thought "freedom" and "restricted government" were the primary principles.

        But no, carry on, lots of regulation is exactly what the founders meant with the 10th amendment.

        (NB-- I actually think this might be a good place for regulation-- but to state that thats one of the founding principles is absurd)

        • Have you read the biographies* of some of the founders? Many were upper class citizens who were merchant class and were not angry at "freedoms" lost, but rather the profits lost by the taxes imposed by the King. Freedom was a half-truth about not wanting someone else limiting their profits, and sounding good to the masses.

          *I have recently had to read/quiz my daughter on biographies she's reading for school. As I read through them, all I could think was - damn, these guy were really modern age Republicans,

          • Just because you disagree with their supposed motivations (and I will admit I am not qualified to speak to the founders motivations in detail), doesnt mean that their conclusions (restricted government, representation, checks and balances) were flawed.

            I would wonder, if one has so much trouble trusting large corporations with power, why would you want to turn around and grant so much more power to an even larger, more bureaucratic, and more entrenched federal government-- particularly when it has shown such

    • Unless I'm missing something, it's the widespread use of antibiotics in general, not just on cows, that leads to so-called "superbugs".
      • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @07:57PM (#36339038) Homepage

        Hehe... no, you didn't miss anything. What you did do, however, is presume my statements were limited to bovine livestock. And I am speaking of the prophylactic use of antibiotics in the dairy industry, it's true, but I did not specify.

        The problem is clear, present, immediate and demonstrable. For the FDA to fail to act now would mean they are ignoring the facts as available to the world public. Even the US government which has long been a denier of climate change has eventually acknowledged it as fact.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        over use in general causes it, agribusiness makes over use of antibiotics a primary part of their operation in order to grow bigger fatter animals faster.
        • by OFnow (1098151)

          ...agribusiness makes over use of antibiotics a primary part of their operation in order to grow bigger fatter animals faster.

          In the case of cows in feedlots, they feed'em antibiotics because corn makes cows sick, so they try to keep the cows healthy enough long enough to make feedlots profitable.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      It has been known for a long time that the continuous use of antibiotics lead to the cultivation of "superbugs." And here we have it now.

      Well what the hell do you expect? Idiots from marketing, to 'health' to government have spent the last 10 years have been telling people to use shit like *insert antibacterial* crap.

    • by chooks (71012)
      This is pretty old news. There are papers from 1980 that talk about chloramphenicol resistant (a really strong antibiotic) bug transmission from dairy farm to human. (An epidemic of resistant Salmonella in a nursery. Animal-to-human spread. Lyons RW, Samples CL, DeSilva HN, Ross KA, Julian EM, Checko PJ.JAMA. 1980 Feb 8;243(6):546-7.)
    • by sjames (1099)

      They're much too busy rubber stamping hair and penis pills and otherwise funneling profits into big tobacco and big pharma to concern themselves with such trivialities as human health.

    • by doccus (2020662)
      A bit too late, I'm afraid .. methinks the damage is done
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Will the FDA actually take notice on this issue now? We'll see I guess...

      They HAVE taken notice. Their solution is to ban unpasteurized dairy products, going so far as to raid health food stores and Amish farmers.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I just posted on reddit under reddit/r/science because I got tired of reading news pieces like this. Antibiotic resistance has been taken care of by the use of bacteriophages. Basically phages are viruses for bacteria and they continually evolve with the ever evolving strains of bacteria. For each type of bacteria and the different strains there is a phage which will kill it.

    For more info please read my post: http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/hr0gk/hey_redditrscience_just_so_you_all_knowwe_have/

    Now i

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      so swallow a spider to swallow the fly? no thanks
      • Bacteriophages have no ability to infect humans. In fact, they can only infect a specific kind of bacteria; it won't kill other bacteria. Which is really good because if it was so easy for viruses to jump from one species to another, we'd all be dead already. Phage literally means "to eat". Once all the bacteria are dead, their food will be gone and the bacteriophages will die off.

        Phages could be very useful as another line of defense against bacteria. I know if I was infected with antibiotic resistant

      • by sjames (1099)

        More like swallow a slightly toxic fly to poison the spider.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Obligatory:

      Skinner: Well, I was wrong; the lizards are a godsend.
      Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
      Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
      Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
      Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
      Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
      Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime roll

  • Do they really expect these things to never evolve? We feed them enough drugs for long enough, the survivors will pass on whatever it was that allowed them to survive to the next generation. Sooner or later, they have a whole colony that is immune to drug X and Y, we just need to find drug Z and AA, and in another 50-100 years, repeat. Sooner or later, we'll be able to go back to drug X and Y.
    • It would be good, but what would be the reason for the descent of that colony to stop being immune to the previous drugs?
      • Re:Evolving (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jamesh (87723) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @08:26PM (#36339180)

        It would be good, but what would be the reason for the descent of that colony to stop being immune to the previous drugs?

        genetic bitrot

      • Re:Evolving (Score:5, Informative)

        by tsotha (720379) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @08:57PM (#36339314)

        Because the mechanisms that allow a bacteria to survive exposure to a given antibiotic come at a cost. It's not the genes themselves that confer resistance - it's the expression of those genes. And the same process that introduced the resistance-conferring gene works to eliminate it if it's no longer needed.

        For example, there is a class of antibiotics that work by dissolving the bacterial cell wall. After repeated exposure germs evolve thicker cell walls, which makes this class of antibiotics less and less effective. But in its absence the thicker-walled bacteria version will be out-competed by its thinner-walled brethren, since thin walls are less resource intensive.

        For the most part the antibiotics we use are just synthetic versions of chemicals secreted by various organisms (bacteria and fungi, mostly). If bacteria could pass down cost-free resistance they'd already be immune to anything we could throw at them.

      • by HForN (1095499)

        The mutations are generally costly. Antibacterials, for example, target molecules that only bacteria have to have a minimal effect on humans, like how penicillin works on bacterial cell walls. Those molecules are originally there basically because it benefits them in some way. Since taking even a huge cost is better than dying, those that do away with what the antibacterial attacks would live and propagate. Naturally, once you stop using the antibacterial by switching to Z/AA, there's no benefit to living w

  • by ridgecritter (934252) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @07:50PM (#36338982)

    http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/06/new-superbug-found-in-cows-and-p.html?ref=hp [sciencemag.org]

    A novel form of deadly drug-resistant bacteria that hides from a standard test has turned up in Europe. Researchers found the so-called MRSA strain in both dairy cows and humans in the United Kingdom, suggesting that it might be passed from dairies to the general population. But before you toss your milk, don't panic: The superbug isn't a concern in pasteurized dairy products.

    MRSA, short for meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a drug-resistant form of the widespread and normally harmless S. aureus bacteria. Many people walk around with MRSA in their noses or on their skin yet don't get sick. But in some hospital patients and people with weakened immune systems, MRSA thrives, and it is blamed for about 19,000 hospital deaths a year in the United States.

    Mark Holmes of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and colleagues stumbled upon the new strain while studying mastitis, or infected udders, in U.K. dairy cows. Some milk samples from sick cows contained S. aureus bacteria that grew in the presence of antibiotics, which is one test for MRSAs. Yet the same samples turned up negative for the drug-defying bacterium when the team used PCR, a DNA amplification technique, to detect a gene called mecA, which is found in all MRSA strains.

    The PCR test doesn't always pick up variants of the gene it's meant to detect, however. To check this, the researchers sent a cow S. aureus sample to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, which sequenced the bacterium's entire genome. "Lo and behold, there was a mecA gene there," one whose sequence overlapped with the better-known mecA by a surprisingly low 60%, Holmes said today in a press conference.

    The researchers then looked for this mecA gene in people. They tested 74 samples of S. aureus isolated from people from the United Kingdom and Denmark that were drug resistant in the antibiotic growth test but not in the PCR test—most from carriers but some from patients who were sickened by MRSA. They found the new mecA in about two-thirds of the samples, they report today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. A nearly identical mecA gene has also now been reported in human samples from Germany and Ireland.

    The strain is still relatively rare—it probably makes up less than 1% of all detected MRSA cases, the U.K. team says. But its prevalence appears to have risen in the past decade. "More likely it's been around in the environment for a long time, and it's just getting into the human population," says University College Dublin microbiologist David Coleman, whose team reports on the Irish samples today in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

    The new superbug probably isn't leading to missed infections, at least in the United Kingdom, because hospitals that suspect a patient is infected with an MRSA nearly always use the antibiotic growth test in addition to PCR, Holmes says. (Patients with a confirmed infection then receive antibiotics that work on MRSAs.) However, many hospitals in continental Europe are moving toward using only PCR tests; this is a warning that those tests need to be modified to test for the new mecA gene, Holmes says.

    The study also points to dairy cows as a possible reservoir for the bug, just as pigs seem to pass MRSA to humans in the Netherlands. The bug probably doesn't get to humans through the milk supply, because almost all milk in the United Kingdom and Denmark is pasteurized, a process that kills bacteria. But workers who come into contact with infected dairy cows could be carriers. Holmes's team reports "circumstantial evidence" for this, such as the fact that genetic subtypes of the human and cow samples from the same geographical areas were nearly identical. "The main worry would be that these cows represent a pool of the bacteria" that farm workers spread into the human popula

  • I am getting tired of reading these news articles about antibiotic resistance. We have the solution to dealing with antibiotic resistance from nature. Bacteriophages are viruses that only attack bacteria and can be used to treat patients or food for bacterial infections. They evolved with bacteria as new strains appear. For each type of bacteria and their different strains there are phages that will work against them. I made a post on reddit about my ordeal with an antibiotic resistant infection I had and
  • Terrible news. And no pasteurization does not make me feel safer. If the stuff was found in dairy cows it would not be surprising if a similar bacteria was found in cows raised for food. And guess what, most people do not cook beef well done.

    Furthermore, if cows become incubators of drug resistant bacteria (which seems to be happening), then it is only a matter of time before some drug resistant bacteria that can be transmitted by air mutates up in a cow's belly and gets transferred to a human handler of th

  • You heard it here first! MoooooooooooooooooooCHOMP!
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday June 04, 2011 @08:09PM (#36339100)

    Maybe this will put a stop to the raw milk nonsense.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rufty (37223)
      Maybe this will put a stop to the rare steak nonsense.
      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        What rare steak nonsense?

      • I doubt it, resturants want you to have your steak bloody because cooking it properly takes 20-30min and they want you occuping the table for as short a time as possible.
        • Since when is cooking a steak well done cooking it "properly"?

          I define "properly" as high heat, 3-4 minutes each side, for a sirloin cut.

        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          Actually it is more that once you cook a steak beyond medium rare you may as well be eating a cheap piece of supermarket meat as you lose all the flavour anyway. What is the point of being in a restaurant if any old piece of crap would have kept you happy. PS: even a well done piece of meat only takes 3 or 4 minutes each side, 20-30 mins is cremated.
    • Why even drink the milk from another animal? There are many alternatives that aren't full of growth-hormones such as soy and almond.
      • Why even drink the milk from another animal? There are many alternatives that aren't full of growth-hormones such as soy and almond.

        Those are indeed good alternatives. I personally like the taste of rice milk the best, it leaves the most pleasant aftertaste in your mouth.

        But there's just one issue: these dairy milk alternatives are terribly expensive, atleast in here. When the alternatives cost 150%-300% of the price of dairy milk it's no wonder people rather choose the latter.

      • Many before you have dreamed of a barn filled with heavy-breasted ladies. Few have succeeded.
    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Today is the first I've heard of the "raw milk nonsense". I'm frankly amazed this exists at all. In Australia and Canada and probably other countries selling unpasturised milk is illegal.

      • I was horrified too. In the past year I have learned that for every real and beneficial advance in public heath or modern medicine there is a fringe group somewhere that thinks that this advance is wrong, detrimental and should be opposed as much as possible.

        The internet has given all of these opinions a forum and I am amazed at how many people are such uncritical consumers of and adulterants to these ideas.

    • OK, so some nutjobs thinks pasteurized *insert whatever* is bad for you somehow (as opposed to just tasting different and maybe having a little more in the way of vitamins/enzymes/whatever). BUT, your missing a point here, it's a personal freedom thing. If I want to buy milk that hasn't been pasteurized for the taste (btw, it does taste very different, many say better), knowing full well the risks (up to and including death, though usually NOT death), why the hell shouldn't I be able to. I can get raw meat,
    • Right, because antibiotic-resistant superbugs in raw milk obviously killed off most of humanity prior to the discovery of pasteurization....?

      So here's the issue: all industry gets scaled up for the sake of profit. works great for manufacturing and mechanized processes, but the process of creating food isn't mechanical. we aren't purely mechanical beings, and we shouldn't be gaining energy from chemical food; this is a fairly clear statement and it's not difficult to see the ramifications of doing so (e.g.

  • As you may already have heard, a new strain of E. Coli (EHEC) is spreading in Central Europe [nytimes.com] (northern Germany seems to be the epicenter) and has killed 18 people so far.
  • I'm not sharing the bathroom with the cows anymore.

  • ..if a standard, common practice like Pasteurization easily kills it off? Or maybe I just don't really understand the definition of a super bug. I understand once you're infected, it's damn hard to get rid of, but when it's so straightforward to kill off before ingestion, it doesn't sound so invulnerable.

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