Friday, 24 January 2014

Live near a big pig farm? Three times the risk of MRSA.


The last three weeks have been exceptionally busy for those campaigning for state veterinary reform in Britain.

There is much to record, including a rebellion by Britain's younger veterinarians on the question of antibiotics used in livestock farming...

...an admission that export pig semen from Britain is extended by antibiotics

...and yet another new disease killing Britain's dogs, probably Alabama Rot, covered up for over a year, some sources claim it is the same as that found over the couple of years on the Queen's estate at Sandringham and elsewhere in the east of England

...Britain's biggest farm veterinarians and antibiotic suppliers selling out to venture capitalists

...Swine Dysentery reported in Cornwall, as well as Yorkshire,  possibly antibiotic resistant

...Britain's third largest pig consolidator going bust

...PEDv found in Canadian pigs

...The pig pricing system in Britain  breaking down under competitive pressure

but that can all wait, perhaps the most serious farm problem impacting on human health remains antibiotic resistance on pig farms.

Maryn McKenna tells us that there are very real risks to living near a large intensive pig farm.

Be sure to read the whole article, here



Almost Three Times the Risk of Carrying MRSA from Living Near a Mega-Farm

BY MARYN MCKENNA 01.22.14 2:06 PM

In the long fight over antibiotic use in agriculture, one of the most contentious points is whether the resistant bacteria that inevitably arise can move off the farm to affect humans. Most of the illnesses that have been associated with farm antibiotic use — resistant foodborne illness, for example — occur so far from farms that opponents of antibiotic control find them easy to dismiss. So whenever a research team can link resistant bacteria found in humans with farms that are close to those humans, it is an important contribution to the
debate.

A team from the University of Iowa, Iowa City Veterans Affairs, and Kent State University have done just that. In next month’s Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, they survey 1,036 VA patients who lived in rural Iowa and were admitted to the Iowa City facility in 2010 and 2011. Overall, among those patients, 6.8 percent were carrying MRSA, drug-resistant staph, in their nostrils. But the patients’ likelihood of carrying MRSA was 2.76 times higher if they lived within one mile of a farm housing 2,500 or more pigs.

They say:

The increasing populations of swine raised in densely populated CAFOs and exposed to antibiotics presents opportunities for drug-resistant pathogens to be transmitted among human populations. Our study indicates that residential proximity to large numbers of swine in CAFOs in Iowa is associated with increased risk of MRSA colonization.

Some important things to unpack here:

MRSA (formally, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) often “colonizes” people — takes up residence on the skin or in the nostrils — before it causes an infection. Studies have shown repeatedly that
being colonized with MRSA increases the risk of contracting a difficult-to-treat infection.

Because of that risk, and because MRSA spreads easily in hospitals, the VA since 2006 has required facilities to screen all incoming patients to see whether they are carrying MRSA and thus are posing a
risk to other patients.

MRSA is frequently found in the vicinity of pigs: not just MRSA ST398, the specific resistant variety that was first identified in pig farmers in the Netherlands in 2004, but the garden-variety community forms as well.

And Iowa has a lot of pigs: 19 million, according to the US Department of Agriculture, housed in about 7,000 “CAFOs” (for confined or concentrated animal-feeding operations), which the US Environmental Protection Agency defines as a facility of at least 1,000 pigs, though most are many thousands larger.

(If you’d like to know more about MRSA, including the “livestock-associated “pig MRSA” variety, I wrote a book. OK, back to this paper.)...

Be sure to read the whole article. (the book really is very readable too, spelling out, as it does, the human costs of doing nothing.)