Pigs can transmit superbugs to humans, research says

Many viruses and bacteria can be transmitted from animals to humans. Some of these pathogens are harmless, but others can cause serious illness, as in the case of a study conducted in Denmark that revealed superbugs that can be transmitted from pigs to humans.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the Statens Serum Institute in Denmark believe that this is caused due to the intensive use of antibiotics on farms, which may have made the pigs resistant to them.


The superbug in question found in pigs is Clostridioides difficile, considered one of the main threats to drug resistance in the world. “Our finding indicates that C difficile is a reservoir of antimicrobial resistance genes that can be exchanged between animals and humans,” Semeh Bejaoui, co-author of the study, told The Guardian.

This superbug infects the intestine and so far resists almost all antibiotics used to fight it. Some genes present in the infection can cause diarrhea and intestinal inflammation which, in the case of patients with compromised immune systems, can lead to death.

Superbugs in pigs

“This alarming finding suggests that antibiotic resistance may spread more widely than previously thought and confirms links in the chain of resistance that leads from farm animals to humans.”

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The intensive use of antibiotics on animal farms is accelerating resistance against these drugs. Antibiotics that were once effective against bacteria are becoming less able to ward off disease and infection. “We are losing our first-line antimicrobials. Substitution treatments are more expensive, more toxic, need much longer treatment times and may require treatment in intensive care units,” said Margaret Chan, former director general of the World Health Organization, according to the British newspaper.

The Danish research concludes that the superbug strains found in pigs are identical to those found in humans. “We have yet to show that the strains were passed from pigs to humans, but what our study makes clear is that farms that use antibiotics are creating conditions that allow resistant strains to flourish and these will eventually infect humans.”

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