Op-Ed reporter, Nicholas Kristoff, wrote an article in the New York Times on March 11, 2009 about an alarming trend in a small farming town in Indiana: the high percentage of MRSA in the town's human population. One of the town's family practitioners, Dr. Tom Anderson, treated many patients with MRSA infections, including himself as well as his daughter. At first, Dr. Anderson did not know why he was treating patient after patient with MRSA in such a small population and then he started to believe that the pig farms surrounding the town were somehow the cause of the spread of the disease in the town's occupants. But before he could meet with Kristoff to investigate the story, Dr. Anderson died at the young age of 54. Kristoff points out in his piece that there are many indications that pigs could infect people with MRSA. First, in the Netherlands in 2004, a young woman who lived on a pig farm tested positive for a new strain of MRSA, called 'ST398'. Public health authorities swept in and found that 3 family members, 3 farm workers and 8 of 10 of the pigs tested all carried MRSA. Since then, that strain of MRSA has spread rapidly through the Netherlands, especially in swine-producing areas. In addition, a small Dutch study
found that pig farmers there were 760 times more likely than the general population to carry MRSA. Furthermore, an article published in "Scientific America"
shows that this strain of MRSA affects people who live near pig farms. If you think this pig MRSA is only across the Atlantic Ocean, think again. A study by Tara Smith
, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, indicates that 45 percent of the American pig farmers she sampled carried MRSA, as did 49 percent of the hogs tested. These studies may explain why Dr. Tom Anderson treated so many MRSA cases in his small pig-farming town of Camden, Indiana. Kristoff opines that this new strain of MRSA is probably caused by the routine overuse of antibiotics in our country's livestock feed and that our agricultural system has helped breed this new threat to our public health. To read more of Kristoff's article, please click here
and stay tuned for future op-ed pieces from the author centered on MRSA's threat to this country, published in the New York Times.