The first study documenting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in swine and swine workers in the United States has been published by University of Iowa researchers.
The investigators found a strain of MRSA, known as ST398, in a swine production system in the Midwest, according to the paper published online Jan. 23 by the science journal PLoS One.
"Our results show that colonization of swine by MRSA was very common in one of two corporate swine production systems we studied," said Tara Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and lead author of the study. "Because ST398 was found in both animals and humans, it suggests transmission between the two.
"Our findings also suggest that once MRSA is introduced, it may spread broadly among both swine and their caretakers. Agricultural animals could become an important reservoir for this bacterium," Smith added.
Staphylococcus aureus, often called "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. A recent study estimated that MRSA caused 94,000 infections and more than 18,000 deaths in the United States in 2005.
MRSA has been found in a variety of animals, including horses, cattle, dogs, cats and swine. Previous studies have shown that many swine and swine farmers in Canada and the Netherlands are colonized with MRSA. However, the University of Iowa study was the first to investigate carriage of MRSA among swine and swine farmers in the United States.
For the study, investigators analyzed nasal swabs of 299 swine and 20 swine workers from two different production systems in Iowa and Illinois. At Production System A, the overall prevalence of MRSA was 70 percent in swine and 64 percent in workers. At Production System B, all swine and human samples
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