Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in animals

ILAR J. 2010;51(3):233-44. doi: 10.1093/ilar.51.3.233.


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a critically important human pathogen that is also an emerging concern in veterinary medicine and animal agriculture. It is present in a wide range of animal species, including dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, cattle, pigs, poultry, and exotic species, both as a cause of infection and in healthy carriers. Identification of MRSA in various species and in food has led to concerns about the roles of animals, both pets and livestock, in the epidemiology of MRSA infection and colonization in humans. There is evidence of the role of food animals in human MRSA infections in some countries and of pets as a possible source of human infection. Some groups of individuals who work closely with animals, such as veterinarians, have high MRSA colonization rates. This article includes discussions of MRSA in human medicine, animals, and food, as well as its interspecies transmission, colonization, infection, strains, and affected populations. However, clear answers are lacking in many of these areas and limited studies may lead to premature conclusions. It is certain that animals are a source of human MRSA infection in some circumstances--but humans may also serve as sources of infection in animals. Changes in the epidemiology of MRSA in one species may be reflected in changes in other species. The true scope of MRSA in animals and its impact on human health are still only superficially understood, but it is clear that MRSA is a potentially important veterinary and public health concern that requires a great deal more study to enhance understanding and effective response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Humans
  • Livestock / microbiology
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • Pets / microbiology
  • Rabbits
  • Staphylococcal Infections / epidemiology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / transmission