Farmworker Study Ties Drug-Resistant Staph to Animal Antibiotics

Authors of a paper published online by the open-access journal PLOS ONE reported livestock-associated MRSA and multidrug-resistant staph linked to livestock were present only among workers exposed to industrial livestock operations.

A paper published July 2 by the peer-reviewed, open-access, online journal PLOS ONE raises more concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock. The authors -- Jessica L. Rinsky and Steve Wing of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Maya Nadimpalli and Jill Stewart of the university’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering; Devon Hall and Dothula Baron of the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help in Warsaw, N.C.; Lance B. Price of the George Washington University Department of Environmental and Occupational Health; Jesper Larsen and Marc Stegger of Microbiology and Infection Control, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark; and Christopher D. Heaney of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health Sciences -- performed a cross-sectional study in which they interviewed 99 industrial livestock operation (ILO) workers and 105 antibiotic-free livestock operation (AFLO) workers and household members in North Carolina. The participants also provided a nasal swab.

They were examining the prevalence, antibiotic susceptibility, and molecular characteristics of as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and multidrug-resistant S. aureus (MDRSA) and their association with livestock.

While prevalance of S. aureus and MRSA was similar among ILO- and AFLO-exposed individuals, livestock-associated MRSA and MDRSA were present only among ILO-exposed individuals, they reported. "These findings support growing concern about antibiotics use and confinement in livestock production, raising questions about the potential for occupational exposure to an opportunistic and drug-resistant pathogen, which in other settings including hospitals and the community is of broad public health importance," their conclusion states.

Funding for the study was provided by the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute, North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center, the W.K. Kellogg Health Scholars Program – Community Track, and a Gillings Innovation Laboratory Award from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, according to the authors.

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