Objectives: Due to their multiple antibiotic resistance properties, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are a major public health problem. After the recently described emergence of MRSA in animals, the authors investigated the risk of nasal MRSA carriage among people with professional contact with animals.
Methods: Nasal swabs and information on animal exposure and known MRSA risk factors were obtained from participants (N=702) at five conferences organized by national veterinary and farmer associations and students at a business school in Denmark. All of the participants were screened by standard microbiological techniques for MRSA detection and characterization.
Results: MRSA carriage was significantly (P<0.02) higher among the veterinary practitioners (3.9%) than among the participants not professionally exposed to animals (0.7%). Six of the nine MRSA strains isolated from veterinary practitioners belonged to clonal complexes (CC) previously associated with horses (CC8), small animals (CC22), and pigs (CC398). Although four of the nine positive veterinarians carried the CC associated with pigs, exposure to small animals, cattle, or horses, but not to pigs, was found to be a significant risk factor.
Conclusions: The results indicate that veterinarians are at risk of MRSA carriage. Veterinary professionals should be informed about this emerging occupational health risk and educated about preventive measures. Collaboration between national medical and veterinary institutions is urgently needed to control the spread of these unwanted bacteria in the community.