AN ELDERLY man living in a nursing home has become the first person in Ireland to have a strain of the MRSA superbug previously only found in animals.
MRSA is a bacterial infection which can be difficult to treat and is potentially life-threatening for people with weakened immune systems.
Until now, only human strains have been found in patients. But disease watchdogs have detected the first case in which a man had a form of the bug which affects cattle, poultry and pigs.
The patient, who was living in a rural nursing home, was admitted to a regional hospital and screened for MRSA in 2009.
He was back in hospital last year, swabs were takenand it was found he had two different strains of the infection.
One was a common strain similar to the most prevalent one circulating in hospitals, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) report said.
But the other was of animal origin. The patient had been a part-time cattle farmer.
The inspectors are unclear where he picked up the animal strain and said it could have been either during his first hospital stay or while in the nursing home.
The HPSC said: "While living in the nursing home the patient had no animal contacts and there were no animal contacts among family members visiting him in the nursing home.
"However, it is impossible to completely rule out a link between the patient and animal sources, particularly because of the rural location of the nursing home.''
Another possible source was raw meat products, it added.
The HPSC did not give details of how the man was treated or the outcome. However, it is believed the infection was not fatal.
There are no guidelines on animal strains in humans here but if more are found further controls will be needed.
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