Dutch scientists have found much lower levels of antibiotic use and prevalence of MRSA on organic pig farms compared with non-organic pig farms.
Their research indicates that 3% of organic pigs in the Netherlands are carrying livestock-associated MRSA, compared with 38% of non-organic pigs.
This type of MRSA was first found in 2003 and is of particular concern because it can spread to humans causing serious infections.
Emma Slawinski from Compassion in World Farming speaks on behalf of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, saying: "The Dutch research shows that by raising pigs in higher-welfare conditions with bedding such as straw and outdoor access, the levels of antibiotic use and of MRSA can be greatly reduced. This benefits human health too, as livestock-associated MRSA has already caused human deaths in Europe.
"British pig farmers need to remain vigilant to ensure that MRSA does not become established in the British pig herd."
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics urges the pig industry and the Government to do more to ensure that MRSA never becomes a problem in British pigs. It would like the following to take place:
- The Government to undertake routine surveillance for livestock-associated MRSA in British pigs to ensure that any development can be identified and addressed at an early stage.
- No live pigs to be imported into the UK unless they have been individually tested for MRSA.
- Vets and farm workers from outside the UK, and British farmers and farm workers having contact with farm animals outside the UK, to be screened for livestock-associated MRSA before having contact with British farm animals.
- Greater efforts by the pig industry to reduce its dependence on antibiotics.
- More pigs to be reared in well-designed free-range systems and fewer to be kept indoors on concrete without straw.
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics is composed of three organisations: Compassion in World Farming, Soil Association and Sustain.