Sick as a pig
26th March, 2009
Another strain of MRSA is emerging from the factory farms of Northern Europe, and it is linked to the insatiable demand for cheap meat on our plates. The Ecologist Film Unit investigates
It remains to be seen whether farm-animal-acquired strains of MRSA will soon be affecting people in the UK
It is a landscape of clinical efficiency. Flat, square fields, neatly interspersed with row upon row of anonymous factory units, greet the passer-by. Behind the silent facades, every building contains thousands of farm animals. It could be veal calves, turkeys or chickens, but in this region of the Netherlands, close to Eindhoven, it is predominantly pigs. The Netherlands has a higher concentration of farm animals per square kilometre than any country on the planet, and these farms are now at the frontline of a new battle against MRSA.
‘Community-acquired’ or ‘farm animal’ MRSA has a grim track record. Commonly causing skin infections, this strain of bacteria can also cause pneumonia, bone infections and endocarditis. And in the Netherlands it is spreading. ‘What we have seen here in our region is a rise of MRSA-positive patients, from an average of 40 or 50 MRSA-positive patients in this entire region in a year to last year 224, and about 60 per cent of those are animal-related MRSA,’ says Mireille Wulf, a microbiologist based in Eindhoven.
Recent studies have shown that between 30 and 50 per cent of all pig farmers in the Netherlands carry the bacteria. This growing trend...
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