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Swine Farmers Show Increased Drug-Resistant Bacteria

05 May 2015

US - Swine farmers are more likely to carry multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus than people without current swine exposure, according to a recent study by Shylo Wardyn and colleagues from the University of Iowa.

The study is the largest prospective examination of S. aureus infection in a group of livestock workers worldwide, and the first such study in the United States.

S. aureus is a type of bacteria commonly found on the skin as well as in the noses and throats of people and animals, which can sometimes cause serious infections.

Previous studies have shown that certain strains of S. aureus are often associated with swine, cattle, and poultry exposure.

About 30 per cent of the US population carries these bacteria, which can cause a range of skin and soft tissue infections. Increasingly, drug-resistant strains of S. aureus are emerging, including multidrug-resistant (MDRSA) strains. 

For the study, the researchers followed a group of 1,342 people, including individuals with livestock contact and a community-based comparison group, for 17 months.

Overall, 26 per cent of the participants carried S. aureus.

However, the investigators found that farmers with livestock exposure, particularly swine exposure, were more likely to carry multi drug-resistant S. aureus than those who weren't exposed to livestock.

The study authors note the research helps keep farmers safe by raising awareness about a potential health issue in swine operations.

S. aureus does not present an economic concern for swine farmers, since pigs generally are unaffected by these infections.

"Current swine workers were six times more likely to carry multidrug-resistant S. aureus than those study participants without current swine exposure," said co-author Tara Smith.  

"Swine workers are also at risk of becoming infected with these organisms," Ms Smith added.

"One hundred and three potential S. aureus infections were reported, and included infections with livestock-associated strains of this bacterium."

There currently is no method to prevent or eliminate carriage of S. aureus in animals or their human caretakers, meaning constant re-exposure and possibly transmission can occur between livestock and farm workers. Those workers can then pass it to their family or community members.

Ms Smith noted: "Transmission of staph between pigs and farmers and into the broader community could complicate efforts to control S. aureus transmission statewide, and have effects nationally due to the travel of pigs and people carrying these bacteria."

Further Reading

You can view the full report and author list by clicking here.

ThePigSite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock

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