London: An entirely new strain of the drug-resistant MRSA superbug has been found in cow`s milk and people in Britain and Denmark, a study published today said.
The previously unseen variant "potentially poses a public health problem," said lead researcher Mark Holmes, senior lecturer in preventive veterinary medicine at Britain`s Cambridge University.
There was no general threat to the safety of pasteurised milk and dairy products, but people working with animals could be at risk, said the study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Dubbed a "flesh-eating" bacteria in media reports, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has emerged as a major threat in hospitals around the world, becoming potentially deadly when it infects wounds.
"Although there is circumstantial evidence that dairy cows are providing a reservoir of infection, it is still not known for certain if cows are infecting people, or people are infecting cows. This is one of the many things we will be looking into next," Holmes told a news conference yesterday.
"Drinking milk or eating meat is not a health issue, as long as the milk is pasteurised," he said, adding that the process of making cheese also "generally kills most of the bacteria".
Holmes said the main worry was that the new strain would be wrongly identified by traditional genetic screening tests as being drug-susceptible, meaning people could therefore be given the wrong antibiotics.