Livestock Workers May Carry Staph Bacteria From Pigs

Megan Gannon | LiveScience | September 17, 2014

Workers who handle livestock may carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their noses after they leave the farm.  A small study of hog workers in North Carolina found that many carried staph bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) and some carried drug-resistant strains of the bug, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.  Over the past several decades, it's become standard practice for farmers to give animals, such as chickens and pigs, regular doses of antibiotics. This is not done to fight bacterial infections, but rather to promote the animals' health and speed up their growth.

However, the increasing use of antibiotics has encouraged the evolution of drug-resistant strains of bacteria. There is now even a livestock-associated strain of MRSA, a bacterial strain that, in humans, can cause debilitating, sometimes deadly, infections and is known for spreading among hospital patients.

About one-third of people in the general population carry the human-associated strain of Staphylococcus aureus in their noses at any given time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When the bacteria do cause an infection, it usually isn't life-threatening. Staph infections can become more serious problems when they involve surgical wounds, the bloodstream, the lungs or the urinary tract, according to Johns Hopkins University. Antibiotic-resistant strains of staph such as MRSA can be the most damaging because they can be very difficult to treat...