Multi-resistant germs in the pigsty

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Most of the pigs are contaminated with MRSA

Several studies commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection three years ago have shown the spread of the multi-resistant pathogen MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) analyzed. The results are to be presented in Berlin on Tuesday.

Professor Thomas Blaha, head of the Epidemiology Branch of the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hanover, explained in advance to the news agency "dapd" on Monday that a certain form of multi-resistant germs had been detected in a large part of the pigsties examined. 40 percent of the people who come into regular contact with the animals are "populated". Nevertheless, the researchers were rather reassured by the results of the investigation, since the corresponding MRSA germ rarely causes an infection in humans. According to the expert, the MRSA pathogens, which are more dangerous for humans, have only been detected very sporadically in the livestock.

Investigation of the occurrence of multi-resistant pathogens in animal husbandry

Three years ago, the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) commissioned five studies, with the TiHo in Hanover entrusted with analyzing the spread of MRSA in pig fattening and pig breeding in Germany, explained Professor Blaha. The Free University of Berlin was to determine the presence of the pathogen in the dust inside and outside the animal shed, and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) was commissioned with the molecular biological fine typing of the bacterial strains, Blaha continued. Basically, the pathogens were typified in three categories: the MRSA-ST398, which is relatively common in animal husbandry, the naturally occurring CA-MRSA in the environment, and the so-called hospital germs, HA-MRSA, which are caused by contact with antibiotics. Common to the MRSA strains is their resistance to conventional antibiotics, which makes treatment considerably more difficult in the event of an infection and, in particular in the case of hospital germs, often results in the death of the patient.

MRSA germs found harmless to humans?
The fact that a large part of the pig population is contaminated with multi-resistant pathogens is more than cause for concern given the resistance of MRSA germs to antibiotics. The researchers are reassured by the fact that 98 to 99 percent of the detected germs belong to the strain MRSA-ST398 and are therefore very rarely dangerous for humans. However, the fact that such a high level of infection with antibiotic-resistant pathogens was found is also a further indication of the abuses in animal husbandry that have been criticized for years - in particular the negligent handling of antibiotics. It can hardly be reassured that the 40 percent of people who were also usually colonized with the pathogen due to regular contact with the pigs can hardly get any infection. According to Professor Blaha, MRSA-ST398 germs usually die in the gastrointestinal tract and only become dangerous if they come into contact with open wounds.

Organic farms are less likely to be contaminated with MRSA than conventional farms
On Monday, the radio station “NDR Info” not only referred to the contamination of the pig population with reference to a written evaluation of the studies on MRSA germs in animal husbandry, but also reported that “in up to 60 percent of conventional farms” and was only detectable in 25 percent of the organic farms of the MRSA germ in the dust. In addition, some of the pathogens were found 500 meters from the stable. As a result, "there is no immediate health risk for people in the area, but spreading antibiotic-resistant germs in this way is possible and must be contained," quoted the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. I cannot determine from the current research results why antibiotic-resistant germs are significantly more common in conventional livestock farms than in organic farms, but the researchers suspect that one of the reasons could be the brisk animal trade in conventional farms.

MRSA germs a general problem in animal husbandry?
The multi-resistant pathogens will probably be introduced with the animal purchases, explained Prof. Blaha. How so many multidrug-resistant pathogens have developed remains unanswered here. It also seems reasonable to suspect that the use of antibiotics in conventional companies could have a direct impact on the spread of multi-resistant pathogens. "NDR Info" had also reported that 13 samples from poultry farms were analyzed for the studies nationwide, the evaluation of which had not yet ended, but "according to the Ministry, in most cases MRSA germs were found". The problem of antibiotic resistance is therefore not limited to the pig herd - which, however, should hardly come as a surprise to laypeople. The fact that the multi-resistant pathogens were allegedly found in numerous slaughterhouses is more of a concern here. At this point, the BMELV will quickly calm you down again, with the indication that the pathogens found in the slaughterhouses were not the dangerous HA-MRSA germs. Just because "MRSA germs can be detected on the meat" does not mean "that they must be dangerous for humans", a spokesman for the ministry told the radio station. Nevertheless, the spokesman for the BMELV also admitted that hygiene in the slaughterhouses needs to be improved in view of the current study results. (fp)

Read also about MRSA:
Resistant germs due to animal husbandry with antibiotics
Multi-resistant germs on frozen chickens
Resistant bacteria in German hospitals
Infection risk in the hospital
Hospital germs: Staphylococci prefer blood

Author and source information

Video: Deadly bacteria and the pharmaceutical industry. DW Documentary


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