A woman struggling with recurring infections recently asked me if the livestock farm she lived near could be causing her infections. She lives near a pig farm and suspected that her infections were somehow linked with the farm. As it turns out, a recent study of MRSA positive pig farms highlights the potential dangers of antibiotic resistant bacteria and airborne MRSA from contaminated farms.
The study tested air and soil samples around German MRSA positive pig farms over a 1 year period, both upwind and downwind of the barns. The animals, floors and air inside the barns were also tested. MRSA bacteria were found in the air and the soil up to 1000 feet downwind of the farms, more so in the summer than in winter. Upwind of the farm, no airborne bacteria could be found and soil contamination was sporadic. MRSA was consistently found inside the barns on the pigs, on the floors and in the air.
The study results are not at all surprising given the livestock industry practice or feeding antibiotics to livestock to fatten the animals and reduce their appetite. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat is one risk from this industry practice. Another risk now seems to come from living near such a farm.
Potential risks and how to help protect yourself
The good news is this study sheds light on ways to reduce the risks. If the wind is blowing from the direction of a contaminated farm, closing windows and reducing time outdoors should reduce opportunities for contact with this bacteria. Because bacteria levels are higher in the summer, minimizing contact is more important then.
To keep things in perspective, not all livestock farms are MRSA positive or use large amounts of antibiotics. And while contaminated farms may be a source of MRSA risk, we all have contact with these bacteria from many sources on a daily basis.
That’s why good cleaning, hygiene and prevention measures are so important, having a game plan for potential infections put in place, along with support for your immune system. You know what they say. “The best defense is a good offense”.
To your best health,
Microbiologist and Natural Health Expert
Reference: Appl. Environ. Microbiol. August 2012 vol. 78 no. 16 5666-5671, Longitudinal Study of the Contamination of Air and of Soil Surfaces in the Vicinity of Pig Barns by Livestock-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus