MRSA cases in Denmark doubled in just one year

The variant of MRSA that can be transmitted from livestock to humans used to account for just two percent of all MRSA cases but in 2014 the pig-borne bacteria accounted for 43 percent - "an epidemic that is out control", an expert warned.

MRSA cases in Denmark doubled in just one year
Photo: V. Meadu/CCAFS/CGIAR/Flickr
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. 
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".
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. 

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‘At least four’ babies contract MRSA at Danish hospital

Several cases of infections related to the MRSA bacterium were reported at a neonatal ward at Aalborg University Hospital on Tuesday.

'At least four' babies contract MRSA at Danish hospital
Photo: Henning Bagger/Scanpix Denmark

At least four newborn babies are reported to have been infected by the bacterium at the hospital's neonatal ward for prematurely born infants, head of department Consultant Pia S√łnderby Christensen told Ritzau.

20 patients at the hospital are currently undergoing tests to detect the presence of the bug, with a similar number of recently discharged patients also recalled.

The hospital is now testing newborn babies and parents that have been at the hospital since late February, along with staff, in an effort to track down the source of the bacteria.

“MRSA infections can be treated with antibiotics, so parents needn't be worried.

“It does not commonly give rise to illness, and the bacteria can be treated if symptoms exist,” Christensen said.

The consultant said she expected further infections to be uncovered.

“We currently do not have an overview of how many children are affected. But we are currently investigating this,” she said.

“We are isolating the infected children with their families. So we are separating the department between those with the bacteria and those who do not have it,” the doctor added.

Christensen also said that of the four children in which infection had been found, one had been treated for a skin infection and was now cured.

The remaining three children did not show any symptoms.

“But we expect to find more infected children, since that's often how it is with outbreaks like this. It passes easily between newborn babies,” she said.

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