Wednesday, 18 June 2014

MRSA st398 - Dutch courage reaping the rewards of integrity

When the Netherlands found that MRSA st398 (cc398) had spread from pigs to a child in 2003, their scientists flew to the USA and told the world, even before publishing.

You can find the whole story contemporaneously recorded on the newsgroup

On their return, the Dutch industry began to reduce antibiotic use in livestock, reaping the benefits in their hospitals for years.

When Britain found MRSA st398 around the same time, their infamous corrupt Agricultural Ministry, Maff - Defra, began pumping out propaganda, failed to test the pigs, refused to admit they had the same problem and encouraged cronies to silence anyone threatening to expose the scandal. That included witnesses to Parliament at Westminster.

Their activities will inevitably form the subject of a Royal Commission with consequential criminal prosecutions.

Maryn McKenna tells the uplifting story of Dutch integrity and the results. It really is a case of Dutch courage against a sniveling forelock tugging British vetocracy, lining up to collect ill-earned gongs (honours).

British veterinary duplicity and cover-ups  means there can be no such good story about Britain.

The children and the old people, who were and will be, the victims don't yet get a voice in Britain.

But they will: those most responsible have bolted taking the vast proceeds of their crime off-shore. They will have to be repatriated and their ill-gotten gains removed to assist the many victims of organised veterinary crime.

Anyway, just some highlights from a long article by Maryn McKenna. As always, read the whole alarming story, here, not just my extracts

The Abstinence Method

Dutch farmers just say no to antibiotics for livestock.

By Maryn McKenna on June 17, 2014

Along with every other livestock producer in the Netherlands, Oosterlaken is in the midst of a high-stakes, government-mandated experiment: Can large-scale meat production succeed without routine use of antibiotics? “Growth promoters,” the microdoses of everydayantibiotics given to livestock to fatten them, have been banned in Europe since 2006—but the Netherlands decided to go even further. Since 2009, Dutch farmers have cut animal drug use by half without harming either animal welfare or their own profits. Four years into the project, their accomplishment has huge implications for farming throughout the world.

“We decided that animal health, and human health, would be our priority,” Oosterlaken told me last fall in his barn, surrounded by warm plastic-lined pens where sows snoozed and new piglets squealed. “I don’t need to take antibiotics every day. There’s no reason my pigs should either.”...

...Antibiotics have been a crucial (and controversial) component of meat production for decades...

... British scientists began detecting a spike in antibiotic-resistant infections in humans in the 1960s, and in 1977, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tried to ban some routine animal dosing, blaming it for
increasing amounts of antibiotic resistance. Since then, hundreds of scientific studies have traced a link between antibiotic use in livestock and antibiotic-resistant bacteria on farms and in theoutside world.

At the same time, antibiotic-resistant human illnesses have been worsening around the world, producing what the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “nightmare bacteria” that cannot be treated by traditional methods.

So if the Netherlands can reduce routine antibiotic use without harming its farmers’ survival, maybe other countries can, too...

... The country is tiny, but its livestock-raising is intensive and high-tech: 17 million people and about 118 million farm animals share a space only the size of Maryland, yet the Netherlands is Europe’s leading meat exporter. So if the Netherlands can reduce routine antibiotic use without harming its farmers’ survival, maybe other countries can, too...

...In 2004, the effects of that largescale antibiotic use emerged. A pig farmer’s toddler daughter was taken to a hospital for surgery, received the routine check for resistant bacteria that all Dutch hospital patients get and was discovered to be carrying MRSA, aka drug-resistant staph — a virulent, hard-to-treat infection that can
become life-threatening. That was extraordinary: MRSA has become more common in the U.S., but the Netherlands had almost none because of its tight controls on antibiotic use in health care. The girl’s parents carried the organism too; so did their friends, and so did one of their pigs. The strain had a unique resistance signature, indicating it had developed in pigs because of the antibiotics they were given every day, and it was soon found throughout the country, contaminating farms and infiltrating health care. (To this day, when members of Dutch farm families go into hospitals, they are put into isolation rooms until lab tests show they are clear of the germ.)...

...The idea that farming could transmit a threat to the rest of society shook national confidence. “Many people in the Netherlands have animal production at their back door, so they are always looking at what’s happening,” says Dr. Albert Meijering, a policy officer at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The “pig MRSA” outbreak — subsequent investigations found the bacteria throughout Europe and in Canada and the U.S. — was followed by another shock: an outbreak on goat farms of Q fever, a disease so infectious that the U.S. government considers it a potential bioterror agent.

The final blow was the 2009 discovery that another drug-resistant infection, more serious than MRSA, was infiltrating the country. This one, which goes by the acronym ESBL, was spreading via gut bacteria, even in people who had no obvious link to farming. And when nresearchers looked for the source, they found it in food animals...

...So, the Dutch minister of agriculture, Gerda Verburg, decided to be bold. ..

 ... she developed a tough new policy: No more preventive dosing. Antibiotics after a veterinary inspection only. And farmers would be expected to cut their use severely: by 20 percent in one year, and 50 percent in three.

It could have sparked a revolt. Instead, Dutch farmers buckled downIn 2013, the ministry announced that antibiotic sales to livestock farms dropped 56 percent between 2007 and 2012...

...“This was done without any big consequences in efficiency, or financial returns,” marvels Jan Kluytmans, a professor of microbiology who monitors antibiotic resistance at Amphia Hospital in the university town of Breda in the southern part of the Netherlands. “I think it indicates they were using too much.”

The Dutch government’s new antibiotic system is complex but straightforward...

.. All farm drug prescriptions become part of a national database, andfarms raising the same type of animal are ranked against each other togauge how well they are doing. (This year, veterinarians will be ranked against each other as well, to reveal who is prescribing the most drugs.) Antibiotics are also rated; to prescribe the drugs most likely to stimulate serious resistance, a veterinarian must demonstrate that a susceptibility test has been performed and that no other drug will work.

There are points of tension...

.. The 2013 edition of the Netherlands’ annual report on antibiotic usage in animals shows resistant bacteria declining in pigs, veal, chickens and dairy cattle. What will really prove its worth, though, is whether antibioticresistant infections decline in humans too. Kluytmans believes he can see signs of progress. “We can say for sure there is no further increase, and there may even?be a decrease” of ESBL-resistant bacteria in humans, he tells me. “We have to be very careful with this. But if it can be proven, it will be an example that, even on a large scale, you can turn back the tide.”

This could be the proof that recalcitrant countries like the U.S. will require to think about similar changes. It is validation that the Netherlands needs as well to keep antibiotic reduction going. The Ministry of Agriculture has set a new goal of reducing drug use again. It wants to force antibiotic use on farms down to 30 percent of where things were before the program started. This stage, everyone agrees, will be the difficult one.

“We are halfway to where we want to be,” says Mossink, in reference to the Health Ministry. “We need farmers and veterinarians to accept their new roles. We’ll need different stables, different food. We’ll
need consumers to be willing to pay a bit more, because meat will be more expensive.”

Really, she adds, “We are trying to reinvent agriculture in the Netherlands.”