MRSA bacteria has been found in pork. Image source: CDC.

Recent peer-reviewed research found methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in pork samples collected from retail stores at a higher rate than previously specified, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Conducted by researchers from the University of Iowa College of Public Health and IATP, the study, titled MRSA in conventional and alternative retail pork products, represents the largest sampling of raw meat products for MRSA contamination to date in the US.

Altogether, 395 samples were collected from a total of 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey. Among these samples, S. aureus was isolated from 256 samples (64.8 percent), and of those, 26 pork samples were found to contain MRSA. S. aureus is a bacterium that can cause serious human infections of the bloodstream, skin, lungs (pneumonia) and other organs.

MRSA causes infections resistant to multiple antibiotics, making it very costly and difficult to treat. In 2005, MRSA accounted for 280,000 infections and nearly 19,000 deaths in hospital environments. Acquiring MRSA outside of a hospital is rare, but has been seen in increasing numbers in communities and on farms.

“The latest results are more than double the prevalence found in previous studies of this kind. At 6.6 percent, pork is four times more likely to be carrying deadly MRSA than the average American [who is infected], pointing to our food system and industrial farming as avenues for MRSA to continue to spread,” says IATP’s David Wallinga, MD.