Superbug in Factory Farmed Pigs

January 29, 2009

(Via Bea and Grist). A newly-published peer reviewed study investigated the prevalence of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in factory pig farms in Iowa and Illinois. MRSA was found in 49 percent of the pigs and 45 percent of the workers.

MRSA is almost certainly linked to the use of antibiotics at these farms. And these antibiotics are chiefly used, not to combat disease, but to boost the growth rates of the animals. What we’re seeing is that this incredibly irresponsible practice is likely producing a genuine public health menace. And, unfortunately, lawmakers don’t seem interested in funding a large-scale investigation that would definitively indicate MRSA rates at America’s factory pig farms. Additionally, MRSA could well be at feedlots, dry lot dairies, and broiler houses, but apparently nobody’s bothering to look.

It’s ironic that animal agribusiness often tries to pin the animal protection community with the terrorist label, while the antibiotic use of this industry’s antibiotic use puts millions of people at risk. MRSA is currently estimated to kill almost 20,000 Americans a year; that’s more than AIDS. Here’s a link to a good background article, and here’s a link to the study.

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