Pandemic warning as highly antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in pigs can jump to HUMANS

Bill Gates warns of risk of global pandemic

The strain of MRSA, a type of bacteria, first broke out in pigs due to farming practices and has become the dominant type in livestock across the continent over the last 50 years. But researchers have warned humans can also become infected with this type of bacteria, which experts fear is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

 

Pig

Experts have warned an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria can jump from pigs to humans (Image: Getty )

Known as CC398, the strain has maintained this antibiotic resistance in livestock like pigs and other animals for decades.

And according to a new study, the strain can rapidly adapt to human hosts while maintaining its resistance to antibiotics at the same time. 

The researchers say this resistance may have been built up over time due to the high levels of antibiotics use in pig farms. 

Dr Gemma Murray, a lead author of the study, said: “Historically high levels of antibiotic use (on pig farms) may have led to the evolution of this highly antibiotic-resistant strain of MRSA.”

This comes after scientists last year warned that antibiotic resistance had become something of a “hidden pandemic” amid coronavirus last year, stressing that “another crisis” could unfold as restrictions get lifted. 

 

Now, the CC398 is getting associated with a rising number of human infections in people who have not even come into contact with any livestock. 

Experts say it is crucial to focus on the MRSA strain so the “risk to public health” is better understood. 

Dr Lucy Weinert, a senior author of the paper from Cambridge University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine, wrote: “Understanding the emergence and success of CC398 in European livestock – and its capacity to infect humans – is vitally important in managing the risk it poses to public health.

“Cases of livestock-associated MRSA in humans are still only a small fraction of all MRSA cases in human populations, but the fact that they’re increasing is a worrying sign.”

This study comes after researchers who conducted a serpeate study discovered that a superbug known as Clostridioides difficile is also capable of spreading from pigs to humans. 

This superbug is considered one of the main antibiotic resistance threats and the researchers described their findings as an “alarming discovery”. 

Semeh Bejaoui, a professor from Copenhagen University, said: “Our finding indicates that C difficile is a reservoir of antimicrobial resistance genes that can be exchanged between animals and humans.

“This alarming discovery suggests that resistance to antibiotics can spread more widely than previously thought, and confirms links in the resistance chain leading from farm animals to humans.”

This also comes after Margaret Chan, former director-general of the World Health Organization, warned that “antimicrobial resistance is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere in the world.” 

She added: “We are losing our first-line antimicrobials. Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units.”

It is thought that around 750,000 people die from drug-resistant infections annually.  And by 2050, there are fears that this could soar to 10 million.

With regard to animals, the UN has warned that the “silent pandemic” in animals has been sparked by “a real missed opportunity” to reduce or even ban the use of antibiotics for animal growth promotion.

In August 2021, a joint statement issued by the UN and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) called for “significant and urgent reduction in the amounts of antimicrobial drugs, including antibiotics, used in food systems”. 

The statement added that this is “critical to combating rising levels of drug resistance”.

This also comes as a mystery illness broke out at a pig farm in Norfolk. 

Foot and Mouth Disease and Swine Vesicular Disease were both ruled out, but an investigation into what is causing the sick animal’s symptoms are still ongoing. 

A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Following the negative test results for foot and mouth disease, further testing has allowed us to rule out the presence of swine vesicular disease on a farm in Norfolk.

“The Temporary Control Zone around the premises has therefore been revoked. The premises remains under restriction and investigations into other possible causes continue.”

This is a breaking story. More to follow.