Saturday, 5 November 2011

Foston Pig Farm - Superbug risks - Discrepancy


A few days ago in our post (here) celebrating the long delayed admission by the British government of the risks to public health from antibiotic resistance arising from pig farms, we quoted from the Health Protection Agency:

“Recent research has found that those living up to 150m downwind of an intensive swine [pig] farming installation could be at risk of adverse human health effects associated with exposure to multi- drug resistant organisms.”

The context is the planning process for a new large indoor pig farm at Foston in Derbyshire opposed by the Soil Association and local residents.

The planning process revealed that the company behind the proposal was testing for MRSA in their pigs, even though the government claims British pigs are clear of MRSA st398.

When we checked back to the American source of the original research, quoted by the Health Protection Agency, which has been available for nearly six years, we found what seems to be an interesting discrepancy:

Bacterial concentrations with multiple antibiotic resistances or multidrug resistance were recovered inside and outside to (at least) 150 m downwind of this facility at higher percentages than upwind. Bacterial concentrations with multiple antibiotic resistances were found within and downwind of the facility even after subtherapeutic antibiotics were discontinued. This could pose a potential human health effect for those who work within or live in close proximity to these facilities. (report here)

In short, the Texans say the the risk is at least 150 m (downwind), the HPA version limits the risk to 150 m.

Both the discrepancy and the reasons are important to the planning process and the health of local residents, including a prison, next door to the proposed new farm. Prisons in the United States have become centres for the spread of MRSA.

This is public health: this matters.