It is a landscape of clinical efficiency. Flat, square fields, neatly interspersed with row upon row of anonymous factory units, greet the passer-by. Behind the silent facades, every building contains thousands of farm animals. It could be veal calves, turkeys or chickens, but in this region of the Netherlands, close to Eindhoven, it is predominantly pigs. The Netherlands has a higher concentration of farm animals per square kilometre than any country on the planet, and these farms are now at the frontline of a new battle against MRSA.
‘Community-acquired’ or ‘farm animal’ MRSA has a grim track record. Commonly causing skin infections, this strain of bacteria can also cause pneumonia, bone infections and endocarditis. And in the Netherlands it is spreading. ‘What we have seen here in our region is a rise of MRSA-positive patients, from an average of 40 or 50 MRSA-positive patients in this entire region in a year to last year 224, and about 60 per cent of those are animal-related MRSA,’ says Mireille Wulf, a microbiologist based in Eindhoven.
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