Multidrug-resistant and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in hog slaughter and processing plant workers and their community in North Carolina (USA)

Environ Health Perspect. 2014 May;122(5):471-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1306741. Epub 2014 Feb 7.


Background: Use of antimicrobials in industrial food-animal production is associated with the presence of antimicrobial-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) among animals and humans. Hog slaughter/processing plants process large numbers of animals from industrial animal operations and are environments conducive to the exchange of bacteria between animals and workers.

Objectives: We compared the prevalence of multidrug-resistant S. aureus (MDRSA) and methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) carriage among processing plant workers, their household members, and community residents.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of hog slaughter/processing plant workers, their household members, and community residents in North Carolina. Participants responded to a questionnaire and provided a nasal swab. Swabs were tested for S. aureus, and isolates were tested for antimicrobial susceptibility and subjected to multilocus sequence typing.

Results: The prevalence of S. aureus was 21.6%, 30.2%, and 22.5% among 162 workers, 63 household members, and 111 community residents, respectively. The overall prevalence of MDRSA and MRSA tested by disk diffusion was 6.9% and 4.8%, respectively. The adjusted prevalence of MDRSA among workers was 1.96 times (95% CI: 0.71, 5.45) the prevalence in community residents. The adjusted average number of antimicrobial classes to which S. aureus isolates from workers were resistant was 2.54 times (95% CI: 1.16, 5.56) the number among isolates from community residents. We identified two MDRSA isolates and one MRSA isolate from workers as sequence type 398, a type associated with exposure to livestock.

Conclusions: Although the prevalence of S. aureus and MRSA was similar in hog slaughter/processing plant workers and their household and community members, S. aureus isolates from workers were resistant to a greater number of antimicrobial classes. These findings may be related to the nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials in food-animal production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Livestock / microbiology
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • North Carolina
  • Swine