Introduction: The presence of Livestock Associated MRSA (LA-MRSA) in humans is associated with intensity of animal contact. It is unknown whether the presence of LA-MRSA is a result of carriage or retention of MRSA-contaminated dust. We conducted a longitudinal study among 155 veal farmers in which repeated nasal and throat swabs were taken for MRSA detection. Periods with and without animal exposure were covered.
Methods: Randomly, 51 veal calf farms were visited from June-December 2008. Participants were asked to fill in questionnaires (n = 155) to identify potential risk factors for MRSA colonisation. Nasal and throat swabs were repeatedly taken from each participant for approximately 2 months. Swabs were analysed for MRSA and MSSA by selective bacteriological culturing. Spa-types of the isolates were identified and a ST398 specific PCR was performed. Data were analyzed using generalized estimation equations (GEE) to allow for correlated observations within individuals.
Results: Mean MRSA prevalence was 38% in farmers and 16% in family members. Presence of MRSA in farmers was strongly related to duration of animal contact and was strongly reduced in periods with absence of animal contact (-58%). Family members, especially children, were more often carriers when the farmer was a carrier (OR = 2, P<0.05). Only 7% (n = 11) of the participants appeared to be persistent carriers. A large heterogeneity in spa-types was detected, however 92.7% belonged to LA-MRSA CC398. A surprisingly high fraction of the spa-types (7.3%) did not belong to CC398.
Conclusion: The presence of LA-MRSA in farmers is strongly animal-exposure related. The rapidly decreasing MRSA prevalence during absence of animal contact suggests that LA-MRSA is a poor persistent colonizer in most humans. These results are of relevance for MRSA control strategies.