Aims: Iberian pigs are bred in Spain for the production of high-value dry-cured products, whose export volumes are increasing. Animals are typically reared outdoors, although indoor farming is becoming popular. We compared carriage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Iberian pigs, raised indoors and outdoors, with intensively farmed Standard White pigs.
Methods and Results: From June 2007 to February 2008, 106 skin swabs were taken from Iberian pigs and 157 samples from SWP at slaughterhouses in Spain. We found that Iberian pigs carried MRSA, although with a significantly lower prevalence (30/106; 28%) than SWP (130/157; 83%). A higher prevalence of indoor Iberian pigs compared with animals reared under outdoor conditions was not significant; however, all but one positive indoor Iberian pig samples were detected from one slaughterhouse. Overall, 16 different spa types were identified, with t011 predominating in all three animal populations. A subset of isolates was characterized by MLST. Most of these belonged to ST398. MRSA isolates from Iberian pigs presented a higher susceptibility to antibiotics than those isolated from SWP.
Conclusions: Despite limited contact with humans, pigs raised outdoors are colonized by an MRSA population that genetically overlaps with that of intensively farmed pigs, although antimicrobial resistance is lower.
Significance and Impact of the Study: To our knowledge, this is the first detection of MRSA in food animals raised in free-range conditions.