The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that the June 2011 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the CDC’s monthly peer-reviewed public health journal, will feature work by researchers at Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System who have identified antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) — known as MRSA — in meat and poultry for sale in Metro Detroit grocery stores.

The group, led by Yifan Zhang, assistant professor of nutrition and food science in WSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, collected 289 samples of raw beef, chicken and turkey from local stores. Of those samples, 65 yielded S. aureus, a common type of bacteria that normally live on the skin and sometimes in the nasal passages of healthy people. Six of the samples were positive for MRSA, S. aureus strains that do not respond to some of the antibiotics used to treat Staph infections.

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The researchers found the type of MRSA bacteria that would have entered the meat through human handlers, not animals. This is the first time that human MRSA has been discovered in retail poultry in the United States.

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The bacteria can cause infection when entering the body through a cut, sore, catheter or breathing tube. The infection can be minor and local, or more serious involving the heart, lungs, blood or bones.

“If you have a wound or cut on your hand and you handle raw meat infected with MRSA, you could get MRSA,” said Zhang. “Cooking can kill MRSA, so if you cook the meat well, MRSA can be eliminated from your food. Always wash your hands before and after handling any raw meat, and protect your hands and skin with disposable gloves.”

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Consumers are advised to treat all meat as if it has been contaminated with MRSA and cook it thoroughly to eliminate the bacteria.