Study Shows Rats Involved in Spreading MRSA

NETHERLANDS - Rats might play a role in the spread and persistence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcous aureus (MRSA) on pig farms, according to research from the Centre for Infectious Disease Control Netherlands.
calendar icon 13 January 2010
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Following previous research that MRSA ST398 is common in pigs and pig farmers, A.W. van de Giessen and colleagues at the Centre for Infectious Disease Control Netherlands at Bilthoven investigated whether rats could be involved in the spread and persistence of the bacteria on pig farms. Their paper is published in Preventative Veterinary Medicine.

In the Netherlands, MRSA ST398 has emerged in hospitals and human carriers have been associated with exposure to pigs and cattle, explain van Giessen and co-authors. They add that high prevalence of MRSA ST398 in pigs and pig farmers have been determined and the transmission routes of MRSA on pig farms need to be elucidated.

In the south of the Netherlands, in recent years, the black rat (Rattus rattus) has emerged as a prominent rodent on livestock farms.

From March to May 2008, a survey on MRSA in rats living on livestock farms in the south of the Netherlands and the north of Belgium was conducted. In total, 40 black rats (R. rattus) and three brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) were collected from 12 farms including five pig farms, five poultry farms, one mixed pig and veal farm and one goat farm.

MRSA ST398 was detected in black rats captured at two of the five pig farms as well as in a black rat living on the mixed pig and veal farm.

From one black rat captured at another pig farm, MRSA ST 97 was isolated.

Considering the behaviour of rats on livestock farms, it is concluded that rats might play a role in the spread and persistence of MRSA on pig farms, conclude van de Giessen and co-authors.


van de Giessen A.W., M.G. van Santen-Verheuvel, P.D. Hengeveld, T. Bosch, E.M. Broens and C.B.E.M. Reusken. 2009. Occurrence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in rats living on pig farms. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 91 (Issues 2-4), 270-273. doi:10.1016 / j.prevetmed.2009.05.016

Further Reading

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