For Michigan State University’s Felicia Wu, the surprise isn’t that people who work with livestock are at higher risk of picking up antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but instead how much higher their risk levels are.

Image/Chun-San via pixabay

“This is a bit of a wakeup call,” said Wu, John. A Hannah Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. “I don’t think there was much awareness that swine workers are at such high risk, for example. Or that large animal vets are also at extremely high risk.”

Compared with individuals who don’t work with animals, those working on swine farms are more than 15 times more likely to harbor a particular strain of a bacterium known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, acquired from livestock. For cattle workers, that number is nearly 12. For livestock veterinarians, it approaches eight.

Wu and Chen Chen, a research assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, published their findings, along with the risk factors for other related professions, in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. Their paper highlights these elevated risks, what farmers can do to protect themselves and what we understand about the public health burden posed by livestock-associated MRSA.

“Livestock-associated MRSA is a strain of MRSA that is especially infectious among animals. Now it has evolved to infect humans as well,” said Wu, who was recently named a fellow of the Society for Risk Analysis. “Bacteria have shown an amazing ability to jump across species to colonize and cause infections.”

Read more at Michigan State University