Pig MRSA widespread in Europe

| 25th November 2009
Pigs on a farm

The Soil Association is calling for the UK to carry out its own national survey of bacterial infections in pigs

Calls for national testing in UK pig herd after survey finds superbug to be prevalent throughout Europe

MRSA has been found in pig herds in more than two-thirds of countries within the European Union (EU), new research shows.

In the first EU-wide survey, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found the antibiotic-resistant bug in 17 out of 24 member states. 

Spain and Germany had the highest incidence, with over 40 per cent of pig holdings testing positive for MRSA.   
The most common MRSA strain found is considered by EFSA to be ‘an occupational health risk for farmers, veterinarians and their families’. It causes skin infections, pneumonia and bone infections.

National test

Whilst the survey did not find any evidence of MRSA in UK pig holdings, the Soil Association has warned that MRSA could still be present in British pigs and that the test used was inadequate.
Another country declared MRSA-free by the survey, Switzerland, did detect the bacteria through its own national testing.
The Soil Association is calling for the UK to carry out its own national survey of bacterial infections in pigs.  
‘MRSA testing is simple and relatively inexpensive and there can be no excuse for not introducing a comprehensive UK testing program in pigs, poultry, cattle and horses, based on the tried and tested use of nasal swabs,’ said Soil Association Policy Adviser Richard Young.

A spokesperson for Defra said:
‘Evidence does not suggest that the presence of MRSA in pig herds is a public health risk.’

Useful links

EFSA report on MRSA in pigs

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