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Originally published June 3 2008

MRSA Superbug Found to be Widespread in Pigs, Pig Farmers

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is widespread among both pigs and pig farmers in Canada, suggesting the livestock industry as a possible source of the disease, according to a study published in the journal "Veterinary Microbiology."

Researchers examined 258 pigs on 20 farms in Ontario, and also tested the workers on those farms. They found that 45 percent of farms, 25 percent of pigs and 20 percent of farmers were infected with MRSA, rates substantially higher than the rate of infection in the general North American population.

Among the MRSA strains found on the pig farms was one that has commonly infected humans in Canada and one that has been associated with serious skin, breast and heart infections in Europe.

MRSA is more dangerous than regular staph infections because its antibiotic resistance makes it more likely to go untreated, and correspondingly more likely to become necrotizing or spread beyond the skin to other organs. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the disease infected nearly 100,000 people in the United States in 2005 and killed 19,000, more than the 17,000 killed by AIDS that year.

The study has added weight to claims that antibiotic use in livestock farming may have led to the development of antibiotic resistance in human diseases. Public health advocates have called on Congress to force the FDA to investigate a potential link between antibiotic use in livestock farming and MRSA, and a bill in the Senate has been introduced that would end the use of human antibiotics in livestock farming within two years.

"Identifying and controlling community sources of MRSA is a public health priority of the first order," said Richard Wood, executive director of the Food Animal Concerns Trust. "Are livestock farmers and farms in the United States also sources? We don't know for sure, because the U.S. government is not systematically testing U.S. livestock for MRSA."

Consumer health advocate Mike Adams said that commercial raising of livestock for food is fraught with the potential for microbiological disaster. "When we raise pigs, cows, chickens or other animals in artificial, enclosed, indoor environments, we are practically begging to be threatened by out-of-control superbugs that breed in such conditions," Adams said. "The commercial raising of livestock for food is, in a very real sense, a threat to the future of human life on our planet. Want to make the world a safer place? Eat plants."

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