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Medicine Science

New Avenue For MRSA 'Superbug': Pigs 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-a-lot-you-filthy-swine dept.
smitty777 writes with news that researchers have discovered another way methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics. According to the study (abstract), the bacteria made the jump to pigs on livestock farms, developed greater resistance through the rounds of antibiotics commonly used to keep the pigs healthy, and then jumped back to humans. "The important development in the story of ST398 is its move back off the farm into humans, causing first asymptomatic carriage in that original family, and then illnesses in other Dutch residents, and then outbreaks in healthcare settings, and then movement across oceans, and then appearance in retail meat, and then infections in people who had no connection whatsoever to farming—all from an organism with a distinctive agricultural signature. That’s an important evolution, and an illustration once again that, as soon as resistance factors emerge, we really have no idea where they will spread. So it would be a good idea to take actions to keep them from emerging, or at the very least to implement surveillance that would allow us to identify them when they do."
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New Avenue For MRSA 'Superbug': Pigs

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  • by HBI (604924) <kparadineNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:11PM (#39154045) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, why was it considered ok to dump antibiotics into animal feed? It seems like total idiocy from this angle, regardless of the short term benefits.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:16PM (#39154089)

      Seriously, why was it considered ok to dump antibiotics into animal feed? It seems like total idiocy from this angle, regardless of the short term benefits.

      Because factory farms make more money that way, duh.

      They don't give them antibiotics to treat disease. They give them antibiotics because they fatten up faster, I guess cause their immune systems atrophy so they can put more metabolic energy into growth.

      But no really, if factory farms didn't save that penny or two per hog we'd ALL be in DEEP TROUBLE then.

      • by mikael (484) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @09:49AM (#39157863)

        Private Eye have been saying this for at least the past decade, but no-one really wanted to know.

        Pumping animals full of antibiotics mean that they divert less internal biological resources like protein and fat to fighting infections, and bulk up instead. But those antibiotics just encourage the evolution of resistant bacteria that can survive in those conditions.

        • by arisvega (1414195)

          they divert less internal biological resources like protein and fat to fighting infections, and bulk up instead

          It is not even that complicated: many farmers just pump them with antibiotics preemptively (so they don't get sick, especially with milk-yielding cows)

          A biochemist ladyfriend of mine tells me that TFA is not any breaking news: bacteria hopping on other environments and making a comeback as a more resistant strain is something that happens all the time, and there are numerous publication about it. Furthermore, hospitals are known to have their own unique strains thriving around so there is a possibility, how

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:20PM (#39154129) Homepage

      Next quarter's profit uber alles.

      That's it. That's all there is to it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slacker22 (1614751)
        This is especially true in countries where farms haven't evolved into 'super-farms'. You have the likes of dairy-farmers who are heavily exposed to the volatility which comes part-and-parcel with specialization (i.e. lack of diversification). For a small family farmer, there is limited benefit to thinking long-term. Their livelihood is tied up with next quarter's profit and they don't have the sophistication/time to be hedging exposure on futures exchanges.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It seems like total idiocy from this angle, regardless of the short term benefits.

      It's a free market. The farmer using antibiotics to increase growth isn't the one paying the costs of those benefits. He's be a idiot not to maximize his profits. Farming is very competitive (low margins), so if you make enough mistakes you'll go bankrupt very quickly.

      • by Fned (43219)

        He's be a idiot not to maximize his profits.

        Which is why, if I ever get a MRSA infection, I'm suing these guys [nppc.org]

      • by izomiac (815208)
        A human needs a prescription for most of these antibiotics, in part due to side effects, but also to slow down bacterial resistance. I'm still shocked that an animal doesn't require a similar prescription from a veterinarian for exactly the same reasons. It's not a free market if someone has the law specifically made in their favor...
      • by Shavano (2541114)

        You've just made a good argument why farming should not be a free market. I wonder if you realize that.

    • by BlueParrot (965239) on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:25PM (#39154185)

      The risk has been known for some time, and thus the practice is mostly banned in the EU, with the exception of two compounds used in poultry feed.

      In the US it is mostly unregulated, and nearly 70% of antibiotics are used for animal feed.

      Can't say I am terribly surprised.

    • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:29PM (#39154225)
      Authoritarian Left  : Antibiotics in animal feed increase yields thus benefiting the proletariat.

      Authoritarian Right : Antibiotics in animal feed increase yields thus benefiting the shareholders.

      Libertarian Left    : If the superbug kills you then you can sue the farmer in court.

      Libertarian Right   : If the superbug kills you then you can sue the pathogen in court.
      • by jhoegl (638955)
        I dunno... if I die... Im suing everyone!

        Hmmm... something seems wrong with this plan, but I cant put my finger on it. I must be one of those people that modded you "Interesting".
    • by SydShamino (547793) on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:39PM (#39154327)

      Libertarianism cannot cope with tragedy of the commons. You know when libertarians say that positive rights are not guaranteed human rights, because they force someone else into slavery? It gets mentioned on Slashdot pretty commonly.

      Your right to live in a world where antibiotics work obliges pig farmers to lower their efficiency and lose money, because it is more cost effective to farm with antibiotics. Likewise, your right to live in a world with breathable air and survivable temperatures and arable land obliges coal factories and car manufacturers to capture their exhausts, including carbon. Libertarians would have to classify these rights as positive rights because they oblige others to take action.

      Some libertarians will say that the court system can handle this, because you can sue those that cause you demonstrable harm. But in a case like this, exactly how much money do you think each person who dies from MRSA can extract from a Dutch farm? And isn't it better to live in a world without MRSA and more government regulation than a world with MRSA and more lawsuits?

      Anyway, if the right to live in a world free of man-made and man-contributed diseases, where the temperature supports life and there is potable water to drink, is a positive right, then why the fuck do we bother with negative rights like speech and assembly at all? They are sort of meaningless when we're all dead. We all should have standing to take action when the commons could be violated, and the way we do that is through government regulation.

      Sorry for a rant on the pointlessness of negative rights without positive rights, but I think that's why it was considered ok to dump antibiotics into animal feed.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        It's considered ok because there isn't any real scientific evidence there is an issue. And it's been studied since at least 1990.

        • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Friday February 24, 2012 @09:00PM (#39154929) Homepage Journal

          It's considered ok because there isn't any real scientific evidence there is an issue. And it's been studied since at least 1990.

          Do you want to cite some of those studies to back up your claim? A quick Pubmed search [nih.gov] turns up a whole lot of papers indicating that the use of antibiotics in animal feed is a major contributor the rise of resistant strains.

          • Because a lot of those results show no such thing. They are spurious hits for that search string. I didn't read past the first half dozen, but it appears only the first two discuss the contribution of antibiotics in animal feed to antibiotic resistance. I didn't read the papers (just their abstracts) so I don't know if those pests also infect humans. But you are certainly wrong that "A quick Pubmed search [nih.gov] turns up a whole lot of papers indicating that the use of antibiotics in animal feed is a

            • I didn't read past the first half dozen, but it appears only the first two discuss the contribution of antibiotics in animal feed to antibiotic resistance.

              Which is one-third of the abstracts you bothered reading. By my count, again just looking at the abstracts, at least six of the twenty papers on the first page indicate a connection between antibiotics in animal feed and the growth of resistant strains; several of those in the next twenty do as well. I'm not going to sit here and do a detailed analysis of how many of the hits are spurious -- like any search engine, Pubmed will turn up a lot of irrelevant crap with any search string -- but the point is tha

              • None of the papers in that search show that antibiotics in animal feed contributes to resistance in humans. And exactly 4 of all the search results are new work showing a connection between antibiotics in animal feed and *changes* in animal pathogens - let alone resistance. Albeit, pathogens developing resistance from antibiotic doped feed is well known. I suppose PubMed just isn't the place to go looking. Anyway, you obviously did a quick search and didn't give more than a cursory glance at the results

                • None of the papers in that search show that antibiotics in animal feed contributes to resistance in humans.

                  Your use of the phrase "resistance in humans" indicates to me that you don't really understand what this debate is about. It's not about resistance in humans, it's about resistance in bacterial strains which can infect humans. And again, many of the papers in the search indicate that the use of antibiotics in animal feed contributes to exactly that. Sorry you failed reading comprehension in elementary school, but please, stop spouting off about things you don't understand.

      • And isn't it better to live in a world without MRSA and more government regulation than a world with MRSA and more lawsuits?

        Though we'll probably end up with MRSA and more regulations (and probably immunity from lawsuits). Government officials didn't give farmers an exception to antibiotic prescription regulations because of political philosophy: they did it for a cut of the profit.

      • by PapayaSF (721268)

        We all should have standing to take action when the commons could be violated, and the way we do that is through government regulation.

        I'm not a libertarian purist, so I'll agree that a theoretical pure libertarian state would have a problem handling this sort of case. But let's look at the real world, where we are spending billions of dollars employing ten of thousands of people in the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Office of the Surgeon General, and who knows how many oth

        • by Nursie (632944)

          "What does that tell you about the ways in which government regulation, which often sounds great in theory, actually works in the real world?"

          It tells you their hands are tied because of free market derp.

          That's what it tells you.

    • by whoever57 (658626) on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:49PM (#39154435) Journal

      Seriously, why was it considered ok to dump antibiotics into animal feed? It seems like total idiocy from this angle, regardless of the short term benefits.

      Farmers just don't understand the issue. I heard an interview with a representative of some group of farmers discussing this issue last year. He was defending the use of antibiotics for "growth promotin" (sic) because they only used a low dose! Of course high doses may have their problems also (if it would allow some to get to the human food supply), but he did not seem to understand that using low doses (presumably somewhat inconsistently administered through the animal feed) could lead to resistence in bacteria.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:54PM (#39154473) Homepage Journal

      Seriously, why was it considered ok to dump antibiotics into animal feed? It seems like total idiocy from this angle, regardless of the short term benefits.

      One reason I became a vegetarian was because I learned about all the antibiotics in Pork/Beef/Poultry. I suffered severe Streptococcus infections in the respiratory system. When learning I was effectively on Antibotics, constantly, due to my diet, thus prescription antibiotics were having no observable effect, I realized I was fighting Streptococcus which was already resistant, thus I was getting these painful and long duration infections.

      Understand this: Antibiotics are targeted toxins, most likely to have a greater effect upon certain organisims, while there would be some collateral effect upon the host, including degradation of the immune system.

      After about 2 years without antibiotic-laden foods I found I stave off these infections more effectively and when I have them the duration is significantly decreased.

      Keeping like livestock (or plants) in a dense concentration provides an ideal breeding ground for organisms to prey upon them, further, to mutate as the turnover can be far more rapid than in the wild. Add to that antibiotics and you have the ideal incubator for super-bugs. Victims of our own way of production. Won't get better with bigger factory farms, either, it's a cycle which builds upon itself.

      • That's one of the reasons I gave up meat 12 years ago. The allowances for turning "animal" into "food" are so absurd and frankly disgusting that I went cold ... uh... tofu?

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          That's one of the reasons I gave up meat 12 years ago. The allowances for turning "animal" into "food" are so absurd and frankly disgusting that I went cold ... uh... tofu?

          The next trick is keeping a fair amount of Organic in your diet, so you don't have concentrations of some ag-chemicals. Nothing presently warning they are uber bad, but I'm not taking chances.

          A great example of how organisms which prey upon a specific host prosper is the Phylloxera epidemic in Napa Valley of California. Lots of vines in close proximity is heaven for the little fly, which damages roots and makes the vines vulernable to fungal infections, which eventually kill the vine. Driving past an aff

        • by Sulphur (1548251)

          That's one of the reasons I gave up meat 12 years ago. The allowances for turning "animal" into "food" are so absurd and frankly disgusting that I went cold ... uh... tofu?

          Tofurky.

          • That's one of the reasons I gave up meat 12 years ago. The allowances for turning "animal" into "food" are so absurd and frankly disgusting that I went cold ... uh... tofu?

            Tofurky.

            niiiice

        • by Gordonjcp (186804)

          It depends where you are. If I lived in the US, with its lax standards of food safety and animal welfare, I'd be vegetarian too.

          Another poster recommended eating organic foods. Yeah. Handy hint - if you're going to eat organic vegetables, make sure you wash and peel them carefully, and give them a good boil. Oh, and use hand sanitiser.

          The organic bit is pretty disgusting too. I've shovelled tons of it on the farm.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Probably the same king of idiocy that takes when the agenda center article at face value.

      Hey, look at that, the person is also selling a book promoting this same idea. What a coincidence!

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      Seriously, why was it considered ok to dump antibiotics into animal feed? It seems like total idiocy from this angle, regardless of the short term benefits.

      That's an easy one, to counteract all the antibiotics being dumped into human beings. T,FTFY.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sausage,
    Baby Back Ribs,
    Scrapple,
    Baloney,
    Capicola,
    Pork Fried Rice,
    and Bacon

    Thus MRSA is an acceptable risk

  • I half joke that all the hub-bub over the bird-flu research papers being released is unnecessary - all any 'terrorist' has to do to get a 'superbug' is to get involved in any chicken farm. (Or pig farm.)

    And no, small-scale farms [peopledaily.com.cn] show no evidence of being any less likely [flucentre.org] to reduce chances of 'growing' and spreading disease [fao.org]. Keeping a bunch of animals in confinement is asking for it. Period.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Keeping a bunch of animals in confinement is asking for it. Period.

      The obvious answer is to slaughter all animals currently in confinement, clean and eat the carcasses, and replace them all with new animals. Problem solved.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No it is not. Period.

  • I blame the animal lovers. Hands off the pigs.
  • the "keeping healthy" phrase in connection with animal feed.

    Story is that continuous small amounts of antibiotics in animal feed are causing increased growth in animals.
    (told verbally by a farmer relative I know) Internet search comes up with:

    Quote from: http://www.udel.edu/chem/C465/senior/fall97/feed/present.html [udel.edu]

    "Antibiotics have been used in animal feed for about 50 years ever since the discovery not only as an anti-microbial agent, but also as a growth-promoting agent and improvement in performance. Te

    • "Antibiotics have been used in animal feed for about 50 years ever since the discovery not only as an anti-microbial agent, but also as a growth-promoting agent and improvement in performance...."

      The best way to select for antibiotic resistant bugs (on humans or any other animal) is to continually subject them to an antibiotic-filled environment (hospitals and farms). The story of resistant bacteria jumping from host to host, from farm to people vice versa, across the ocean, etc. doesn't seem particularly surprising. There are plenty of examples of bacteria & viruses moving between species. And, with global trade and travel, it's just a matter of time before diseases spread all over.

      Antibiotics

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Stay away from pigs.

  • Be careful (Score:4, Informative)

    by yog (19073) * on Friday February 24, 2012 @08:47PM (#39154845) Homepage Journal

    Wash your hands after handling meat, wash all the implements and counter tops that may come into contact with raw meat. Cook the meat well.

    Be careful with restaurants; to minimize your chances of exposure, just say no to eating out unless you can't avoid it. Once in a while is OK but several times a week is a good way to pick something up, if not MRSA then hep-C or some other nasty microbe that the waiter carried to your plate from someone else's plate. If you don't see the waiters wash their hands after taking your plates away, then you can bet they didn't wash their hands after taking the previous customer's plates either. When the water boy comes over to refill your glass, hand it to him by the rim, so he's forced to pick it up by the bottom. Use a straw.

    And stay out of hospitals. Those places can make you sick. MRSA is one nasty infection that you don't want to get, but there are others as well. Basically it's a rather closed environment full of sick people, and also full of well people carrying the germs from one sick person to another, and your life may depend on how well they washed and sanitized their hands before touching you.

    This may seem kind of paranoid, but we live in an increasingly crowded and mobile world where a nasty little microbe in some little corner of the globe can make its way into your soup literally days or hours later.

    • How the hell is this crap modded up? It doesn't just seem paranoid, it is paranoid.

      You need to get some help, dude. It's called germophobia. Do you seriously avoid going out to eat because you're that afraid of germs? Hepatitis C?! I'll bet you've got quite the social life!

      I'm not saying it doesn't happen and I have absolutely no numbers to back this up, but I have a feeling you're much more likely to get in a serious car accident on the way to the restaurant than you are to get hepatitis C!

      I stopped u

      • by yog (19073) *

        You make some good points but none of them invalidate my points.

        > How the hell is this crap modded up? It doesn't just seem paranoid, it is paranoid.

        Not really; it's common sense. Medical professionals in hospitals and clinics know about the risks of infection. It's a kind of dirty secret, because if the public suspected how "dirty" hospitals really are, no one in his right mind would even visit one.

        > You need to get some help, dude. It's called germophobia. Do you seriously avoid going out to eat b

  • Nothing more.

    A book where she conviently ignors the fact that if this was true, superbug would be PIGS AND COWS.
    Her book draws several correlations to gether, does NOTHING to lok at causation, ignores anything that is counter to her claim, tells scary stories.;however it demonstrates nothing.

    All this for her over arching goal to end industrial ag.

    Actual well done scientific studies have show it priparily comes from hospitals, and to a lesser extent peopel not complete there antibiotic treatment.

    IN this case

  • Especially when we pump our livestock full of them whether they need it or not. It's a breeding ground for drug-resistant bacteria.

    It also makes the species weaker because sick and defective animals don't die off, and instead are used to procreate offspring.

    It's not even a political issue. It's just common sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The general principle has been known for many many years. I worked in a lab in the 1980's that was doing ressearch on the use of antibiotics in feed because we knew it would lead to resistence being spread given the prevalence of the genes on plasmids. It's obvious to any microbiologist.

    The antibiotic companies sell the bulk of their product ( and manufacture it cheaply ) to agriculture. The large agribusinesses whose cost cutting 'efficiencies' would fail disasterously without it run the Dept of Ag in the

  • "researchers have discovered another way methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics"

    It stands to reason that if you kill off roughly 90% of the bacteria, the remaining sample will have increased resistance to the antibiotic.
  • First of all this is old news. It shouldn't be up on the front page.

    Second of all, you can vote with your wallet against this. Just buy all natural pastured pork instead of the factory farmed pork. When the pigs are raised out on pasture using managed rotational grazing they don't have any need for antibiotics in their feed to stay healthy. This results in healthier meat for you so you stay healthier.

    If you care, support your local pasture based farmers. Yes, it will cost more than the government subsidized

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