At least every second Danish swine farm is probably infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to new investigations. Ministers demand total sterilization of 500 farms for breeding pigs and ban public visits to infected farms – but keep the names of these farms secret.
– The Danish Food Administration is in the process of analyzing tests from 200 farms. The results will be available later this year. But I can say now that we expect that 50 percent or more will be tested positive. I have therefore asked for a reassessment of the risks, said Danish Minister of Food and Agriculture Dan Jørgensen (S) in an open meeting in the Agriculture Committee under the Danish Parliament Wednesday 27th of August.
The minister of Health, Nick Hækkerup (S) added:
– It is terrible if there are diseases we no longer can treat. The infection from pig-MRSA is now increasing significantly more than the other types of MRSA.
Swine MRSA now counts for 39 percent of all Danish MRSA
Since 2007, the special MRSA CC398-bacteria that can be transmitted from pigs to humans has increased its share in Denmark from 2 percent of all cases of infection with resistant MRSA bacteria to 39 percent.
In July 105 new cases of infected humans with pig-MRSA were registrated. This means 6.000-12.000 Danes have the dangerous bacteria without knowing it, according to two of the leading experts on MRSA in Denmark, Henrik Westh, chief of the Science Center on MRSA in the Copenhagen Region and Hans Jørn Kolmos, professor at Odense University Hospital.
The two ministers promised the Agriculture Committee in the Parliament that work on a new single antibiotic strategy is being advanced and will be presented within a few months.
Ban on visiting infected farms by school groups
But there was also news about the already stringent measures. They introduce among other things, a ban on visiting infected farms, for example by school groups. How the ban can be maintained, however, remains somewhat unclear after that consultation, as it is has not been made public, which farms are infected.
Another decision from the two ministers is that all farms, around 500, with breeding pigs are now to be screened for swine-MRSA.
Two big question remained unanswered
Two big question, however, remained unanswered in the meeting room at Parliament. One was the conditions for all those who work with pigs, so long as infected pigs remain and their habitats are not reorganized. Very strict hygiene can hardly hinder the fact that each new workday involves new risk of infection.
– For health care programs it makes no sense to remove the bacteria from carriers working with pigs on a daily basis, said Nick Hækkerup.
The other big question – by Dan Jørgensen described as “The elephant in the room” – is quite simple: “So what?”
At a meeting earlier this summer Dan Jørgensen was referring to the Norwegian strategy to test all pig farms, kill infected animals and disinfect stables.
This solution he dissociated himself from in July, and he did again in August.
– It is not a viable option in Denmark, where the problems are much greater, and even in Norway, it was not a final solution. Of the 24 rescheduled farms, two have been infected again. If it is true that 50 percent of Danish animals are infected, we are not talking about 3.5 billion DKK (0,5 bio Euro), which I said at the last meeting, but rather about 9 billion DKK (1,2 bio Euro) for improvement only in the first year – and not counting the export effect.
– It’s probably not the way we should go, said the minister.