Friday, 11 November 2011

Foston Pig Farm - the human risks understated

The writer is neither a member nor a supporter of the Soil Association; however, all these points are right as far as they go.

They come from a longer media release celebrating the Soil Association's apparent success in getting the proposed new Foston Mega Pig Farm stopped by the local council.

They fail to mention that “organic” pigs are now just as likely to be a problem, as are rare breeds, and in many cases they understate both the seriousness of the problem and its longevity.

Britain’s pigs have been ill for more than a decade and illness has been spreading into the hospitals for years. The vets, in particular, have been carrying it from farm to farm and from the farm into the community.

We had also noted the Health Protection Agency underplaying the potential risks of Foston, and similar pig farms, by misquoting American research here

The genie of zoonotic superbugs is out of the bottle in Britain and probably will not be forced back in our lifetime. We will have to learn to live, if we, can without the huge benefits of antibiotics, not just for animals but for people too.

The full Soil Association media release may be read here

Key points of this evidence include:
  • pig farming accounts for approximately 60% of all UK farm antibiotic use
  • research shows that the levels of disease and the use of antibiotics both increase as pig farms get bigger
  • larger herd size is linked with higher levels of many diseases in pigs, including some that can cause illness in people
  • for certain bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter, most of the antibiotic resistance in human infections comes from farm-animal antibiotic use
  • resistance to antibiotics can transfer between both animals and humans and this occurs more frequently, and with far greater ease, than was previously believed
  • a number of very serious new types of antibiotic resistance have developed in recent years and several of these are increasing in farm animals
  • C. difficile ‘superbug’ bacteria which has been found in hospitals is a growing problem in pigs worldwide, and the latest research shows that at least one strain of the pathogen is now present in British pigs
  • there is growing evidence that C. difficile may be spreading from pig farms to humans through the environment
  • there is concern about the risk of Pig MRSA spreading to the UK; it is now well established that people working with MRSA positive pigs, such as farmers, veterinarians, and even their family members, are at risk of colonisation and infection - there have also been a number of very serious cases and deaths
  • there are real concerns that unless antibiotics are used much more sparingly we will soon find ourselves facing a range of serious diseases in humans and animals that can no longer be treated effectively.