Thursday, 6 August 2009

Dutch admit extent of MRSA in livestock and farmers

This is the world service of Netherlands Radio.

It is not comfortable reading.

It is interesting to see the Dutch government are investigating the
role of vets in the over prescription of antibiotics to livestock.

The Dutch are going to come out of this fiasco relatively well. They
have at least admitted that there is a problem, told the world five
years ago, and are attempting to do something about it.

What a comparison to Britain's shabby veterinary industry!

Still if they can't be bothered to maintain proper ethical standards
they must not expect any sympathy from the rest of us.

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)is concerned about the overuse of antibiotics on cattle farms. The medication ultimately causes the hospital superbug MRSA to become resistant.

The RIVM says that some human diseases may become untreatable if the bacteria continue to develop a resistance to antibiotics.

No alternatives

RIVM infection specialist Dr Roel Coutinho told NOS television,
"It's known for a fact that all bacteria ultimately become resistant.
At that point, new antibiotics need to be used, but currently there
are no new antibiotics in the pipeline. Therefore we have to restrain
the use of the current antibiotic medication as much as we can. That's
why Dutch doctors and hospitals follow guidelines on limiting the
application of antibiotics, and that approach works. Compared to other countries, antibiotics prescriptions in the Dutch health care system are relatively modest."

The problem is that the guidelines do not apply to animal breeders on
cattle, pig and chicken farms.

"On cattle farms, the quantity of antibiotics administered to the
animals is ten times that of the human use countrywide. I'm not
convinced that that is really necessary, and I think we should do the
utmost to reduce the use," Dr Coutinho added.
Some 80 percent of cattle breeding farms and half the Dutch chicken
farms have been infected with a strain of MRSA, the institute says. In
2008, there were over 1100 reports of infection, 400 more than in


Chairman Wyno Zwanenburg of the Dutch Pig Breeders' Union explained to NOS that pig farmers have made considerable advances in reducing the use of antibiotics. He pointed out that pigs are living in groups, necessitating group treatment, even if only a single animal has been infected.

One third of all cattle farmers are infected with MRSA, but the
bacteria is only dangerous for people who are susceptible because of
other illnesses or general ill health.

In an attempt to curb the use of antibiotics on farms, Agriculture
Minister Tineke Verburg has ordered an investigation into the role of
veterinary doctors. Vets generally act as their own dispensing
chemists, selling the antibiotics to farmers. The vets' umbrella
organisation agrees that the use of antibiotics in cattle farms should
be brought down, but adds that there are usually medical arguments in favour of their use.