The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has funded a study of occupational safety in U.S. swine veterinarians, including a long-term study of Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA, according to Peter Davies, DVM, Swine Health and Production, University Of Minnesota, who is leading the project.

It’s one of four projects of the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) Center, a collaboration involving the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and College of Veterinary Medicine; the National Farm Medicine Center of the Marshfield (WI) Clinic; and the Minnesota Department of Health.

So-called "livestock associated" MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) is a hot topic when it comes to discussions surrounding antimicrobial resistance. Previous studies confirmed that ST398 MRSA can be found in U.S. hogs, farmers, swine veterinarians and pork, although data suggest lower prevalence than in some European countries.

Although it has been shown repeatedly that people with livestock contact commonly have positive nasal cultures for ST398, Davies says two major questions remain to be resolved:

  1. Does this represent true colonization or just transient contamination of the nasal cavity?
  2. Is this associated with increased risk of clinical disease?

The study also includes a broader survey about occupational health and safety in swine veterinarians, but with more focus on S. aureus.

By observing patterns of S. aureus colonization, and any associated illness, over a period of 18 months, the study will provide new insight into the significance of ST398 MRSA as an occupational health risk, Davies explains.

Unlike producers, veterinarians are typically in contact with many different farms each month, which makes them a unique population for studying colonization patterns.

Davies is seeking to enroll 70 members of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) in the study to submit self-collected nasal swabs monthly over 18 months.

Learn more at Davies’ booth at the AASV annual meeting in Denver (March 12-13) or contact him by e-mail (davie001@umn.edu) or phone (612-625-8290).