THURSDAY, May 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Pig farm workers are at increased risk for multidrug-resistant staph infections, new research indicates.
Most infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus are minor, but this strain of the bacteria can sometimes cause serious infections, and drug-resistant strains are becoming more common.
Researchers followed more than 1,300 people who lived in rural areas or small towns in Iowa for 17 months. Overall, 26 percent of the people in the study carried Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, a rate slightly lower than the national average of 30 percent.
But pig farm workers were six times more likely to carry multidrug-resistant S. aureus than people who were weren't exposed to pigs, and they were also more likely to become infected, according to the study published recently online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
"S. aureus does not typically make pigs sick, but they can act as carriers and transmit the bacterium to farmers," corresponding author Tara Smith, an associate professor at Kent State University in Ohio, said in a University of Iowa news release.
"While carriage of S. aureus isn't itself harmful, individuals who harbor the bacterium in their nose, throat or on their skin are at risk of developing an active staph infection, and they can also pass the bacterium to other family or community members. Individuals who may be immunocompromised, or have existing conditions such as diabetes, are especially at risk from staph infections," said Smith, who conducted the study while a faculty member at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
"Iowa ranks third nationally in overall livestock production and first in swine production," Smith said. "Transmission of staph between pigs and farmers and into the broader community could complicate efforts to control S. aureus transmission statewide, and have effects nationally due to the travel of pigs and people carrying these bacteria."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about staph infections.