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Study Finds MRSA in Midwest Swine and Swine Workers

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

In a first ever study, MRSA has been found in US swine, and swine workers. The study, published by University of Iowa researchers, found that a strain of MRSA, known as ST398 is very common in a swine production facility in the Midwest, in both the swine and the swine workers.

According to lead author Tara Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, "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."

It has been reported that MRSA caused 18,000 deaths in the United States in 2005. MRSA has been found in horses, cows, dogs and pigs. This is the first study to show that MRSA is present in swine in the United States.

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Researchers took cultures from the noses, a common area for MRSA colonization, in two swine production facilities in Illinois and Iowa, testing 299 swine and 20 swine workers. The results showed 70 percent MRSA in swine and 64 percent in workers in one facility.

According to Dr. Smith, "Iowa ranks first in the nation in swine production. Transmission of MRSA on swine farms or in veterinary facilities could complicate efforts to reduce MRSA transmission statewide and beyond."

The researchers are not certain why MRSA was found in swine and swine workers in only one Midwest swine production facility, but they believe several factors might be the cause, citing the age of the facility, and the difference in swine breeds as possibilities. The study authors suggest most studies, including testing retail meat for MRSA contamination.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Strain ST398 Is Present in Midwestern U.S. Swine and Swine Workers