As many as 12,000 people in Denmark are infected with the antibiotic-resistant MRSA without knowing it, two leading MRSA experts have calculated.
Henrik Westh, the head of the Capital Region’s MRSA research centre, and Hans Jørn Kolmos, a professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Southern Denmark, studied the results from Denmark’s multi-resistant bacteria monitoring programme and statistics from the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI) and concluded that between 6,000-12,000 people are infected with MRSA CC398, a variant that can be transmitted from livestock to humans.
CC398 has seen a massive increase in Denmark over the past seven years. According to SSI, the CC398 variant only accounted for two percent of all MRSA cases in 2007 but this year it is up to 35 percent. In July alone, 105 people were infected with MRSA – the highest monthly total ever.
Westh and Kolmos warn that human death resulting from infection is a certainty.
“It is naive to expect anything else. It is simple mathematics when so many people are infected,” Westh told Politiken.
“The sneaky thing about the bacteria is that you can carry it without having the faintest idea. If you are otherwise healthy, you will show no symptoms but still could infect others who are more susceptible. They could become seriously ill or, in the worst case scenario, die,” Kolmos told Politiken.
The two researchers are calling for Denmark to implement stricter controls in the pig production industry and accuse the Danish Food and Veterinary Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) and the Danish Health and Medicine Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) of not doing enough.
“Both Fødevarestyrelsen and Sundhedsstyrelsen have massively failed in this instance. They, for one reason or another, have neglected the problem from the start and one is tempted to ask if the authorities are more loyal to the pig industry than to the people who risk becoming ill and even dying from swine MRSA,” Kolmos said.
Authorities rejected the accusations.
“We are worried about the increase we are seeing in the number of infections and therefore we are doing what we can to keep the bacteria out of hospitals,” Sundhedsstyrelsen spokesman Søren Brostrøm told Politiken.
Food and Agriculture Minister Dan Jørgensen – who criticised Fødevarestyrelsen for its handling of the current listeria outbreak – told the newspaper that he is willing to do more in the area.
“Even though we are trying to do something to both limit infections and limit the use of antibiotics [in pigs], we still need to know more about how MRSA spreads from swine. When we know what works, I’m ready to do whatever is necessary,” he said.
In July, Norway’s largest retailer said it was considering putting a stop to all pork imports from Denmark due to MRSA fears.