DETROIT (WWJ) – Researchers at Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System say they have found antibiotic-resistant MRSA in meat and poultry for sale in Metro Detroit grocery stores.

The researchers found the type of MRSA bacteria that would have entered the meat through human handlers, not animals. And, according to WSU research, this is the first time that human MRSA has been discovered in poultry for sale to consumers in the United States.

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The group, led by Detroiter Yifan Zhang, Ph.D., 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 researchers say do not respond to some of the antibiotics used to treat Staph infections.

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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.”

Zhang advises consumers to treat all meat as if it has been contaminated with MRSA and cook it thoroughly to eliminate the bacteria.

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The study’s findings, announced by WSU and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will appear in the June issue of “Emerging Infectious Diseases”, the CDC’s public health journal.