Jul 23, 2009 | 4
On Thursday the New Zealand-based Living Cell Technologies began giving type 1 diabetes patients a pig cell treatment, which promises to suppress disease symptoms.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 18 million people suffer from the disease, which is characterized by an inability of the body to produce insulin. This failure stems from destruction of islet cells—cells that reside in the pancreas and produce insulin—by a misdirected immune attack.
The company is harvesting islet cells from neo-natal pigs, encapsulating them in an algae-derived gum that protects the pig cells from being rejected by the person’s immune system. Studies on 10 subjects are currently underway in Russia, and now eight patients will be given the product, called Diabecell, in the New Zealand studies.
May 4, 2009 | 7
Last Friday, we reported on Egypt's recent attempt to curb transmission of the human H1N1 epidemic by butchering all 300,000 of its pigs. Experts we interviewed said there was no sound rationale for such a move, because pigs had never been infected with the new virus, which has sickened at least 1085 people in 21 countries – until now.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recently announced that a herd of pigs in Alberta might have caught the new virus from a Canadian who had recently spent time in Mexico, ground zero for the current epidemic. Fortunately, both man and pigs have recovered or are in the process getting better, but the incident raises a new question: do pigs now pose a threat to humans?
May 1, 2009 | 7
As swine flu fears sweep the world, governments everywhere are taking steps to prepare for a global pandemic, such as ramping up disease surveillance, reinforcing medicine stockpiles, and distributing infection control information to citizens. Egypt, however, with no confirmed cases of swine flu within its borders, added another step: Killing all 300,000 of its pigs.
"It has been decided to immediately start slaughtering all the pigs in Egypt using the full capacity of the country's slaughterhouses," Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly said earlier this week, according to The Independent. The idea is to prevent the animals from passing the disease to humans.
Apr 2, 2009 | 1
Among the gripes about the economic stimulus package has been pork for porkers – $1.7 million earmarked to study smelly pigs. Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain listed the program as among the “Top 10 Porkiest Projects” in the bill, and columnists chimed in, too. “Hey, Iowa researchers, I have one word for you: Febreze,” columnist Laura Rowley wrote on Yahoo Finance last month following passage of the $787 billion legislation.
While one might argue that foul odors come with pig territory, the smell is a quality of life issue for people who live near them, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) noted when he defended the project. But foul pig smells are also bad for business: so-called boar taint – the odor you might notice when savoring a link of sausage or strip of bacon – is a turnoff for consumers.
Mar 12, 2009 | 2
Evidently, pork isn’t just a problem when it shows up in stimulus package bills or because pigs smell. It may also land you in the hospital.
That’s the message of a Nicholas Kristof column in today’s New York Times about the dawning realization that pigs around the world often harbor antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria. The original “superbug,” these bacteria can cause painful, red welts in infected people, and infections kill over 18,000 Americans annually – more than AIDS, according to 2005 estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As Kristof notes, ScientificAmerican.com reported in January on this so-called MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) first turning up in samples of U.S. swine, according to a study published in PLoS ONE. Evidence that commercially raised pigs – usually pumped full of disease-fighting antibiotics to grow good and fat for their bacon and holiday hams – are breeding tough bacteria originally cropped up on a farm in the Netherlands in 2004. There, the pig-borne versions of the bacteria account for nearly a third of all MRSA infections.
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