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Evaluation of Nasal Microbiota in Slaughter-age Pigs and Impacts on MRSA

21 May 2014

University of Guelph researchers found that farm management (liquid versus dry feeding and antibiotic use) can influence the microorganisms present in the noses of pigs but they were unable to identify any effects on the carriage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

In BMC Veterinary Research recently, J Scott Weese and colleagues at the University of Guelph in Canada reported their work on the evaluation of the nasal microbiota in slaughter-age pigs and the impact on the nasal carriage of the antibiotic-resistant human pathogen, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). 

The nasal microbiota of pigs has been poorly assessed, they explained, but could play a role in carriage of important microorganisms such as MRSA. The objectives of this study were to describe the nasal microbiota in slaughter age pigs, to evaluate the impact of farm management on the nasal microbiota and to provide a preliminary assessment of the influence of the microbiota on MRSA carriage.

The Guelph researchers collected nasal swabs were collected from five MRSA-positive and eight MRSA-negative pigs on one farm that used a liquid feeding system and routine tylosin treatment, and seven MRSA negative pigs from an antibiotic-free farm that used conventional feeding.

A total of 946,310 sequences passed all quality control filters. The number of sequences per sample ranged from 4,307 to 165,656 (mean: 56,092; SD: 40007). CatchAll analysis of richness predicted a mean of 1749 OTUs (range: 213–3,736; SD: 996). Overall, 6,291 OTUs were identified, yet 5,125 (81 per cent) were identified less than 10 times and the 12 most abundant OTUs accounted for 80.7 per cent of sequences.

Proteobacteria predominated in all but two samples.

Liquid-fed/tylosin-exposed pigs had significantly lower relative abundances of Verrucomicrobia (P=0.004), Fibrobacteres (P≤0.0001) and sequences unclassified at the phylum level (P=0.028).

When comparing only liquid-fed pigs, MRSA carriers had significantly more Bacteroidetes (P=0.037) than MRSA-negative pigs.

A total of 124 genera were identified, with Moraxella accounting for 35.4 per cent of sequences. In the Jaccard index tree, five of eight MRSA-positive pigs clustered closely together, as did six of the seven conventionally-fed pigs.

A significant difference was identified between conventional and liquid-fed pigs using parsimony test with the Jaccard (P< 0.001) but not the Yue&Clayton (P=0.26) index.

There were no significant differences between MRSA-positive and MRSA-negative pigs (P=0.133 and 0.175, respectively).

OTUs belonging to Firmicutes were the main indicators of MRSA-negative pigs, including Lactobacillus and another Lactobacillaceae and Staphylococcus.

Weese and colleagues concluded that farm management can influence the nasal microbiota in pigs, but no impact of the microbiota on MRSA carriage was identified.

They added that studies that further define the impact of management on the microbiota and the impact of the microbiota on pathogen carriage are indicated.


Weese J.S., M. Slifierz, M. Jalali and R. Friendship. 2014. Evaluation of the nasal microbiota in slaughter-age pigs and the impact on nasal methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) carriage. BMC Veterinary Research. 10:69 doi:10.1186/1746-6148-10-69

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May 2014

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