The number of Danes infected with the antibiotic-resistant MRSA bacteria nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, new figures from the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI) show.
In 2014, 1,271 people were infected with MRSA CC398, a variant that can be transmitted from livestock to humans. That is nearly twice as many as the 648 people who were infected in 2013 and is also significantly higher than the 900 or so cases SSI expected to see in 2014.
Of the 1,271 Danes infected last year, two died and eight suffered toxaemia. According to SSI, both of the people who have died from MRSA CC398 were infected by other humans.
See also: Second Danish death attributed to MRSA
The virus strain 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 in 2014, 43 percent of all MRSA cases were the CC398 variant.
In December, a task force found that MRSA is present in two out of every three pig production sites in Denmark, and a spot check of pork products in Danish supermarkets showed that every fifth pack of pork carries MRSA.
Those findings have put pressure on the food and agriculture minister, Dan Jørgensen, to get the outbreak under control.
“For me, it is clear that the previous efforts we have made here in Denmark have not been enough,” Jørgensen said at the time, adding that he would work with parliament to find a “comprehensive action plan” to combat the rising prevalence of MRSA.
The National Audit Office of Denmark (Rigsrevision) said in October that it would take a closer look at how Jørgensen’s ministry has handled the situation. After a preliminary examination of the ministry’s efforts to reduce the spread of the bacteria, Rigsrevision said in December that it would launch a full investigation.
Even though SSI’s official numbers show that MRSA cases have nearly doubled, the actual number of infected people in Denmark could be much higher.
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, have estimated that between 6,000-12,000 people are infected with MRSA CC398 without knowing it. Kolmos told Politiken on Thursday that the 2014 numbers are proof of "an epidemic that is out of control".
See also: Up to 12,000 infected with MRSA: experts
The two researchers have called on Denmark to implement stricter controls in the pig production industry and accused 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 told Politiken in August.