Prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among veterinarians: an international study


Corresponding author and reprint requests: M. W. H. Wulf, PAMM Laboratory for Clinical Microbiology, De Run 6250, 5504 DL Veldhoven, The Netherlands


Pig farmers and veterinarians in contact with livestock in The Netherlands have a higher risk of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) carriage than the general population. The objective of this study was to investigate whether this is also true for other professionals in contact with pigs in an international setting. A convenience sample of 272 participants at an international conference on pig health in Denmark was screened for MRSA carriage using combined nose/throat swabs and were asked to complete a questionnaire concerning animal contacts, exposure to known MRSA risk-factors, and the protective measures taken when entering pig farms. In total, 34 (12.5%) participants from nine countries carried MRSA. Thirty-one of these isolates were non-typeable by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis following SmaI digestion of chromosomal DNA. All of the non-typeable isolates belonged to spa types (t011, t034, t108, t571, t567 and t899) that correspond to multilocus sequence type 398. All of the above-mentioned spa types, with the exception of t899, have been isolated previously from either Dutch pigs, pig farmers and/or veterinarians. Protective measures, e.g., masks, gowns and gloves, did not protect against MRSA acquisition. Transmission of MRSA from pigs to staff tending to these animals appears to be an international problem, creating a new reservoir for community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA) in humans in Europe, and possibly worldwide. The rise of a new zoonotic source of MRSA could have a severe impact on the epidemiology of CA-MRSA, and may have consequences for the control of MRSA, especially in those countries that maintain a low prevalence by means of search-and-destroy policies.