Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
United Kingdom Medicine Science

UK Milk Supply Contains New MRSA Strain 179

Tests on milk from several different farms across the U.K. have turned up evidence for a new strain of MRSA — bacteria which have evolved resistance to common antibiotics. As long as the milk is properly pasteurized, it poses no threat to consumers, but anyone working directly with the animals bears a small risk of infection. According to The Independent, "The disclosure comes amid growing concern over the use of modern antibiotics on British farms, driven by price pressure imposed by the big supermarket chains. Intensive farming with thousands of animals raised in cramped conditions means infections spread faster and the need for antibiotics is consequently greater. Three classes of antibiotics rated as 'critically important to human medicine' by the World Health Organization – cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and macrolides – have increased in use in the animal population by eightfold in the last decade."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

UK Milk Supply Contains New MRSA Strain

Comments Filter:
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:00PM (#42396813)

    They just need to be sure they regularly dose their cows with the right antibiotic...

    • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:31PM (#42397063)

      Stop using methicillin and the resistance will go away. Microbiology 101.

      It takes less than 10 divisions for the microbe not producing resistance to take over since it has a fitness advantage of not needing to invest energy in resistance.

      If they were to employ scientists not partially, but fully, in this issue, we would have it solved by now. The prblem is that the long term answers by scientists would reduce short term gains desired by business.

      Alas, pursuit of capital over what is right will again shoot us in the foot. The market has no long term plans or goals. Regulation and intervention with science is the only way now.

      • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:39PM (#42397153) Homepage Journal

        If they were to employ scientists not partially, but fully, in this issue, we would have it solved by now. The prblem is that the long term answers by scientists would reduce short term gains desired by business.


        I cringe every time I hear people accusing scientists of scaremongering for the money. The big money in all the controversial areas is on the anti-science side, without exception.

        • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:05PM (#42397423) Homepage

          Settle down you two. You do realize that the term 'scientists' is broadly encompassing? People that work for the evil industry. People whose moral compass shines brightly through the evil fog of the world (that's IT, no more caffeine this morning).

          They don't live under volcanoes and play with obese felines. Well, most of them anyway.

          First of all, bacterial resistance genes turn out to me much more complex than previously thought. Many resistance genes have evolved on cassettes [] which have the ability to evolve irrespective of the host bacterial genome. So they are selected to hang around, even in the absence of the initial selection factor.

          Further, these cassettes can be transmitted to OTHER bacteria even without antibiotic selection and annoyingly enough, tend to get lumped together into multiple antibiotic resistant bacteria. So, we've let the cat out of the bag - it was inevitable although we managed to make it a bigger problem faster than need be.

          TL;DR antibiotic resistance is going to be around a long time whether or not we use the antibiotics. Scientists aren't all greedy douchebags. There are more things in heaven and earth, dear Slashdotters, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

      • Stop using methicillin and the resistance will go away. Microbiology 101.

        It takes less than 10 divisions for the microbe not producing resistance to take over since it has a fitness advantage of not needing to invest energy in resistance.

        Un fortunately that is not true. Now it is true that for some types of drug resistance that can happen. But in general some types of resistance, like for example eflux pumps, are so generic and cover so many function in the bug that they mechanism won't go away just because one drug is removed.

      • Exactly, the three critical classes should be banned for ant use except for human use when the more common ones have failed. Let's keep our big guns armed!
  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:06PM (#42396857)

    With an ever increasing pressure to drop prices so that the numbers in the next quarter (or, for the long-term corporate leaders, next 2 years) are met. Screw the fact that we're raising a whole class of nasty bugs that will enable us to relive the glory of pre-penicillin times, when something as simple as a cut meant possible amputation of the affected limb.

    Antibiotic resistance is probably one of the worst things we're facing down in the coming century or so, right next to AGC. Both have the ability to have a tremendous negative impact on our lives, and both are a long time off - in other words, they are things no politician or corporate owner will want to touch while they're still working.

    • Karma's a bitch.

      When the superbugs become immune to everything, the richarses will be just as screwed as us, and it'll probably serve them right.

    • What about the Free Market?

    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      Antibiotic resistance is probably one of the worst things we're facing down in the coming century or so,

      This is true, and finding MRSA in the wild brings this much closer be becoming a far more universal problem.

      The playing field is vastly different than in the pre-penicillin days when the only hope of finding a "cure" was an exhaustive search to find a compound that would kill the bugs. The very name MRSA stems from resistance to penicillin type drugs. Now with rapid DNA sequencing we can not only identify MRSA much faster [], but we _should_ also be able to find additional ways to kill it, including some phys []

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Actually, you can develop resistance to what you call "physical means", too, up to a point. Just look at the rise of triclosan resistance since the proliferation of antibacterial soap. There are even reports of some UV-resistant bacteria [] out there.

    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      What's AGC? Wikipedia [] was no help. Just want to make sure I know all the things I should be freaking out about. :-)

  • Growth promotors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:07PM (#42396863)

    Big agribusiness preemptively pumping their animals full of antibiotics to kill off their gut flora as "growth promotors", which packing them in like sardines, to make a quick buck -- a hack to make the animals bigger and more productive, but also to compensate for the filth and squalor the beknighted creatures are kept in...

    What could _possibly_ go wrong?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:18PM (#42396961)

    ...I'm a pharma researcher at we have active programs trying to create next generation antibiotics, but the simple fact is evolution works. Eventually things will become resistant. These kinds of practices HAVE to stop because, frankly, it's getting harder to come up with new antibiotics. We have some new ideas, new biology is being uncovered, and different routes to attacking bugs are being explored. But the fact is that there will be fewer and fewer new classes of antibiotics rolling out. Pay the higher price for milk so that when you get strep throat you don't die from it. This clearly penny-wise pound-foolish thinking. A politician would do well to stand in the way of these practices under the guise of making sure that being able to protect our citizens and children from the ravages of infection wasn't just a "really nice period of humanity during the 20th and early 21st century before everything was resistant to everything." Think about someone sawing your kids leg off and then decide if milk is worth a buck / gallon more to you.

    • by mcelrath ( 8027 )
      Maybe you would know... Why is research insisting on "broad spectrum" antibiotics: single compounds that kill many bugs, rather than making antibiotic cocktails? If there is a probability of developing a resistance P, then a cocktail containing two antibiotics should have a probability P^2. Is it something sickening to do with patents? Or is there a good scientific reason?
      • by plover ( 150551 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @07:20PM (#42399207) Homepage Journal

        Broad-spectrum == economical solution.

        If each type of bacterial pathogen responded only to a narrow spectrum antibiotic, then when you got sick from a bacterial infection the lab would have to assay your blood to figure out which of the millions of bacteria in your system were actually causing the problem, then get you the right medicine. And the moment one of the pathogens mutates, the antibiotic would have less of an effect on it. So add up the expense of the lab work, the delays in treatment that would cause, the stock of custom pharmaceuticals that every pharmacy would have to carry, and it turns out that broad spectrum antibiotics are a whole lot cheaper and overall more effective.

        Or to follow on to your suggestion of cocktails, what makes you suppose that any one cocktail wouldn't act exactly as a broad spectrum antibiotic? If a cocktail reduces the probability to P^2, (P^2)>0 is still true, so resistance is still possible.

        The problems of resistance are not caused because the antibiotics are broad spectrum, but primarily by the proliferation of under-dosed environments. If you're going to use an antibiotic, it has to be present in a sufficient dose for an appropriate duration to actually kill all of the pathogens. A too-small dose, or a course of treatment that is ended early for any reason, will leave you with some bacteria that survived due to a low-level of resistance. Their offspring will thrive, and some of them will go on to offer higher resistance if your antibiotic treatment resumes.

        If you're going to give it to cows, it should be done in response to a specific pathogen, and they should be given the full dose and course of treatment. Their waste should be kept away from other animals that might pick up the infection. But recognizing an infection in a cow, then isolating and treating it is expensive, so it doesn't get done as a first choice.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        They don't. Some do. There is a lot of research is specific bugs.
        Why do you think it's only one or the other?

        "then a cocktail containing two antibiotics should have a probability P^2
        no. Not even close.

        Not only is it economically good, it can be scientifically good becasue often one bug follows another, and it's better for the patient if it is stopped before it becomes a physical issue.

        The largest contributor to resistance strain is people not finishing there antibiotic regime, or not taking proper care of t

  • by SD NFN STM ( 759426 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:18PM (#42396963)

    Obligatory XKCD. It seems that Randall Munroe is the Nostradamus of our time, having predicted all future events in his humorous comic strip: []

  • Whether your brain fails to understand the problem, or is the cause of the problem.
  • In Australia we also have unsustainable pressure from our 2 supermarket overlords driving down diary farmers to at-cost or loss prices. Our milk is at $1 a litre now, you pay more for bottled water! Are the rest of the world's supermarkets pushing down milk prices? I wonder if the cookie industry will take notice and capitalize on this free flowing milk...
  • Drop Milk (Score:4, Interesting)

    by assertation ( 1255714 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:51PM (#42397273)

    Just stop using cow's milk.

    60% of the global population can't digest milk once they become adults. []

    Health researchers at Harvard have even come out and said cows milk isn't a necessary part of a healthy diet, it is something that is TOLERATED in a healthy diet if people don't get too much: []

    Some dairy foods can have as much or more cholesterol and saturated fat as meat.

    There are substitute milks made out of almonds, rice, hemp or soy in many supermarkets now. You can use those or fortified orange juice to get plenty of calcium without the digestive stress or the many health, digestive issues of cows milk

    • Re:Drop Milk (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ByteSlicer ( 735276 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:33PM (#42397695)

      60% of the global population can't digest milk once they become adults.

      No, 60% of the global population can't fully digest milk sugar (lactose), which only constitutes 5% of milk by weight.
      Of those people, many tolerate the undigested lactose to varying degrees, tied to geographical distribution of certain genes.
      The other components of milk (water, protein, fat, calcium) can be digested normally.

      • What is the point of your post? Undigestable cow's milk sugar is still an integral part of milk for most of the world's adult population?

        Why drink something that will give you digestive discomfort, take special pills to drink it or drink a processed version of it when there is no need?

        • My point was that what you said was a hyperbole, just like the title of the article you linked. You made it appear that 60% of the world population can't drink milk, which is simply not true.

          Adults keep producing lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose), but at lower levels than at infancy. This doesn't automatically cause lactose intolerance. Some people still produce high enough lactase levels, others can tolerate higher levels of undigested lactose.

          Most of the discomfort occurs when certain bacteria

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by swb ( 14022 )

      It always cracks me up to see someone up on their soap box about some health or nutrition issue and then start throwing "saturated fat" and "cholesterol".

      You know that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol aren't bad for us, don't you? That the conventional wisdom on obesity and cardiovascular health relative to saturated fat and cholesterol is junk science?

      • by guises ( 2423402 )
        Man, it always cracks me up to see someone get up on a soap box about some health or nutrition issue and make declarations about "saturated fat" and "cholesterol" like they know what they're talking about.

        You know that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are really bad for us, don't you? You know that declaring research that you don't agree with to be "junk" is bad science, right?

        From the American Heart Association:

        "There is overwhelming evidence that reductions in saturated fat, dietary cholesterol
        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          And yet you can do all the "right things" and still die within the margin of error of the "average lifespan". all that stress, all that effort, all that self denial, and for what? And others do all the wrong things and still live into their 90s. The stats are all over the place even once you take out the obvious stuff like smoking and eating nothing but bacon. My grandfather has had 5 heart attacks (1 minor, 2nd resulted in a shunt and pacemaker) surgery, he's nearly 90 and still going strong; turned out th

    • Nuts and soy are common allergens. Hemp, well, nobody's going to fall for that one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward


      If milk was in the traditional diet of anyone but us Whites, you wouldn't be so quick to say it should be dropped. Protect everyone else, but fuck us, right?

      Milk is perfectly natural and healthy (for people with the gene to digest it, i.e. mostly Whites), and has evidently been part of our diet for thousands of years.

    • So? The people of Great Britain are generally NOT part of the 60% you talk about.

      And the digestion issue you are talking about is mostly a problem dealing with lactose, which can be handled in a variety of ways.

      The fact is that your argument is a non-sequiter in the context of this article.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Hey, look at that, before wisdom takes an quote out of contexts it and spins it .. imagine my surprise~

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      This anti-milk stuff is silly. Milk is healthy and a simple easy source of calcium for the majority of people, no specially modifed foods required. Milk is a simple easy source of food for a great many people. And milk is absolutely essential in a large number of hte foods we eat cause of this little thing called "cooking" which is really just chemistry, and the milk plays an integral part.

      So get off you're soapbox and cut the hyperbull; just watch where you step, you were spewing manure from your face.

    • Just stop using cow's milk.

      60% of the global population can't digest milk once they become adults.

      Perhaps we should ban other foods that people don't tolerate [] as well, such as wheats, oats, barley, corn, almonds, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, soy beans, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds? Or perhaps we'll just let the lactose-tolerant keep their milk?

  • Ummm good....

  • I think, and have always thought, that the natural way of cultivating foods for human consumption is better. The business people strive to reduce loss and to increase production. But they forget to ask questions which has less to do with money such as environmental costs or anything to do with "long term" effects of short term gains.

    Of course, as long as "everyone" is doing it, no one is responsible and of course if a few hold back from those practices, they will be swallowed up by those who do in the sho

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Becasue organic produces less yield and kills people.

      You note that pasteurization kills this. As we have known, organic milk is a huge risk. I could go on with numbers and figures and facts, and studies, but you probably wouldn't understand them, so I will sum up:
      A) Shit flows down hill.
      B) the udder is under the ass.

      Wow, I love that sentence.

      • I completely understand what you mean.

        We know how to handle the basic problems of food handling and processing. The problem is when we go too far beyond that. We challenge the forces of nature itself and when we do, we invariably lose.

        We wash food, we pasteurize milk and cheese. Those are good to do. What's not good to do is drug our sources of food. It is well known that the over use of antibiotics breeds stronger bugs. Despite this knowledge they persist in the practice.

    • FYI,
      Organic labeled milk is usually more pasturized and processed than non-organic labeled milk. The reason is that it is purchased less often so it has to have a longer self life than normal milk.
  • they already do it to meat. What's the harm, right?
  • As long as the milk is properly pasteurized, it poses no threat to consumers, but anyone working directly with the animals bears a small risk of infection.

    Pasteurize the cows.

  • This is what is wrong with corporations (and is also the fundamental flaw in american style libertarianism aka anarcho-capitalism) - the greedy bastards simply DO NOT GIVE A FUCK about the consequences of their actions, they just want a short-term boost to profits, no matter the cost to others.

    They're not the ones who are going to be paying for it when people lose their limbs or organs or die horribly from MRSA, so it does not matter in the slightest.

    We need a corporate death penalty for crimes like this -

  • Well, if they give fluoroquinolones to cattle, we can be confident it will be unefective on most bacteria soon, and therefore that it will not be prescribed anymore. Given the toxicity of the thing (it destroy tendons), that is a good news.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant