Wastewater Treatment Plants and Pig Farms  May Be as Dangerous as Hospitals

Although hospitals are the usual source of “superbugs,”  they aren’t the only place you can pick up a virtually incurable infection.  Researchers at the University of Maryland have identified methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, at sewage treatment plants in the mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.

MRSA is a well-known problem in hospitals, where patients have picked up potentially fatal bacterial infections that do not respond to antibiotic treatment.  But since the late 1990s, iMRSA also been showing up in  people outside of health-care facilities.

Outside hospitals, the source of  MRSA is unknown, but recent research, in Sweden and in the United States, indicates that sewage treatment plants may be implicated.  This is of special concern because of increasing reuse of waste water.

A very limited study carried out by the University of Nebraska indicated that 83 percent of the raw sewage tested contained MRSA, but it also found that after chlorination of the wastewater no bacteria were found.

In addition to sewage plants, according to a study conducted in the Netherlands, the risks of getting MRSA  are highest among people living in a region with high concentrations of cattle and pigs.

Hospitals are definitely the greatest danger, but sewage plants where the sewage is not treated with chlorine before release and livestock operations seem to also be sigificant risk areas for MRSA.


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