Danish pig farmers start testing their own herds as MRSA risk grows

By Gerard O’Dwyer, in Helsinki

- Last updated on GMT

An increasing number of pig farmers are carrying out their own testing
An increasing number of pig farmers are carrying out their own testing

Related tags Mrsa Denmark Livestock Pork

More Danish pig farmers are testing their own herds after an analysis of pig herd screening tests, ordered by the ministry of food, agriculture and fisheries, found that swine-related ‘methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus’ (MRSA), is nearing epidemic levels on Danish farms.

The country-wide investigation found that traces of MRSA had been found in up to 70% of pig farms. Disillusioned with the government’s response to eradicating MRSA, farming organisations in Denmark, including the Danish Meat Association (Danske Slagterier), have reported an increase in pig farmers testing their own herds for the presence of the disease.

"Initially, the test work we received came from state agencies. We now see a strong increase in test orders [from farms] for small and large herds. This shows the high degree of concern that exists,"​ said Jeppe Boel, a senior adviser to the Technical University of Denmark’s analysis laboratory, one of the country’s leading testing centres for MRSA CC 389 in pigs.

Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s minister for food, agriculture and fisheries, stopped short of describing the occurrence of MRSA in livestock as having reached epidemic levels when he addressed the issue in the Danish parliament (the ‘Folketing’) on 29 October.

"The screening tests showing a 70% presence indicates that swine-MRSA is rife in herds. This is a very, very serious situation. The government is awaiting a report from a group of experts. We expect to have this report in late November. Once we study the report, we will make recommendations on how best to eradicate MRSA in cooperation with stakeholders,"​ Jørgensen said.

The expert group, he added, would incorporate results from the "continuing screening"​ of herds for MRSA. "As part of the task of eradicating MRSA, it is gratifying that the pig industry itself has already taken the initiative to reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics by 50%,"​ said Jørgensen.

A separate report by the Region Hovedstaden MRSA research centre estimated that up to 12,000 Danes - many with no connections to farming or the pig industry - could be infected by MRSA. "Authorities in Denmark are not doing enough to combat MRSA in animals or in humans. The government needs to get tough with the farming sector to eliminate this disease once and for all. Specific and universal measures need to be taken on a farm by farm basis. The pig industry needs to be more decisive about ridding MRSA from farms,"​ centre head Henrik Westh told GlobalMeatNews​.

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