April 15, 2012

 

 Study examining swine veterinarians' MRSA risk

 

A swine veterinarian holding a piglet 

Researchers in Minnesota hope to improve understanding of the frequency, duration, and risks of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonization and infection among swine veterinarians.

The results could be used to help reduce health risks for those who work with swine.

Dr. Peter Davies, a professor of swine health and production at the University of Minnesota and lead researcher on the project, said that in previous studies, high percentages of nasal swabs taken from veterinarians have been positive for methicillin-resistant S aureus. The present study is needed to provide missing information on the implications of those positive nasal culture results, help determine whether positive culture results reflect colonization or transient contamination, and quantify health risks for veterinarians, he said.

The project is being conducted through the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center at the University of Minnesota; the center is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The center is receiving about $1.6 million in funding this year, and about $160,000 of the year's budget is going toward the MRSA project, a CDC spokeswoman said.

The study authors intend to examine S aureus colonization patterns in 70 U.S. swine veterinarians over 18 months, determine the incidence of occupation-related skin and soft-tissue infections, assess protective measures used by swine veterinarians, and quantify the associations between exposure to pigs and the risk that swine veterinarians will be colonized or infected with MRSA or methicillin-susceptible S aureus strains, according to information from Dr. Davies.

The S aureus strains found in swine veterinarians will be typed to determine whether they are associated with livestock, and the project will include a concurrent survey of occupational hazards and risk-reduction practices among swine veterinarians, according to information from the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.

"Collectively, the project will provide the first longitudinal assessment of the risk of human colonization and infection with livestock-associated MRSA and its association with animal contact and personal protection practices," information from the center states. "This information will be relevant to continuing education of veterinarians and farmers with respect to reducing occupational risk of zoonotic disease."