More on the Super Bug

According to a report I read on All Headline News, A new study published in Veterinary Microbiology found methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is widely common in Canadian pig farms and pig farmers, signaling to some that animal agriculture as a source of the deadly bacteria. The Veterinary Microbiology study (Khanna et al. Veterinary Medicine 2007) is the 1st to show that North American pig farms and farmers commonly carry MRSA.

Researchers looked for MRSA in 285 pigs in 20 Ontario farms and found MRSA at 45 percent of farms (9/20) and in nearly one in 4 pigs (71/285). One in 5 pig farmers studied (5/25) also were found to carry MRSA, a much higher rate than in the general North American population. The strains of MRSA bacteria found in Ontario pigs and pig farmers included a strain common to human MRSA infections in Canada.

A study published last month [October 2007] in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (Klevens et al: Invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in the United States JAMA 2007; 298: 1753-1771) estimated almost 100,000 MRSA infections in 2005, and nearly 19,000 deaths in the United States. In comparison, HIV/AIDS killed 17.000 people that year.

With the recent outbreak of the deadly disease researchers generally believed MRSA as an opportunistic infection occurring mainly in hospitals. However more information is coming to light that finds even healthy people are developing MRSA infections and pig farms may be a possible culprit. Now some experts in the in the medical, agriculture, and environmental industries are calling for Congress to compel the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to study whether the use of human antibiotics in animal agriculture is contributing to the reported surge in MRSA infections and deaths in the United States.

"Identifying and controlling community sources of MRSA is a public health priority of the 1st order," said Richard Wood, Executive Director of Food Animal Concerns Trust and Steering Committee Chair of Keep Antibiotics Working. "Are livestock farmers and farms in the United States also sources? We don’t know for sure, because the US government is not systematically testing US livestock for MRSA."