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Unidirectional animal-to-human transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ST398 in pig farming; evidence from a surveillance study in southern Italy

  • Pirolo, Mattia1
  • Visaggio, Daniela1
  • Gioffrè, Angela2
  • Artuso, Irene1
  • Gherardi, Monica3
  • Pavia, Grazia4
  • Samele, Pasquale2
  • Ciambrone, Lucia4
  • Di Natale, Rossella5
  • Spatari, Giovanna5
  • Casalinuovo, Francesco4
  • Visca, Paolo1
  • 1 Roma Tre University, Viale G. Marconi 446, Rome, 00146, Italy , Rome (Italy)
  • 2 Workplace and Environmental Hygiene, Lamezia Terme Research Centre, INAIL – National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work, Lamezia Terme, Italy , Lamezia Terme (Italy)
  • 3 Workplace and Environmental Hygiene, Monte Porzio Catone Research Centre, INAIL – National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work, Rome, Italy , Rome (Italy)
  • 4 Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Mezzogiorno, Catanzaro, Italy , Catanzaro (Italy)
  • 5 University of Messina, Messina, Italy , Messina (Italy)
Published Article
Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Nov 21, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s13756-019-0650-z
Springer Nature


BackgroundLivestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) belonging to clonal complex 398 is recognized as an occupational hazard for workers employed in intensive animal husbandry, especially in the swine-breeding chain. In this study, we compared the prevalence and epidemiological type of MRSA isolates from swine and farm workers in a large area of southern Italy.MethodsBetween January and March 2018, 88 workers from 32 farms where we had previously performed a survey for MRSA colonization of farmed pigs, were sampled by nasal swabbing. A follow-up investigation was conducted on seven workers 1 year after primary screening. MRSA isolates were characterized by MLST, spa and SCCmec typing, and tested for susceptibility to 15 antimicrobials. Epidemiological correlations between human and swine MRSA isolates were supported by Rep-MP3 and RAPD PCR fingerprinting, and whole-genome sequencing.ResultsThe overall colonization rate of MRSA in swine farm workers was 21.6%, being significantly higher in intensive farms and in workers with direct animal contact. All human MRSA isolates were multi-drug resistant, belonged to the ST398 livestock clade, and did not carry Panton-Valentine leukocidin and enterotoxin genes. Notably, 94.1% of human MRSA isolates belonged to the same epidemiological type as swine MRSA isolates from the corresponding farm. Persistent MRSA carriage was documented in some workers 1 year after primary sampling.ConclusionsWe report a high prevalence of MRSA among swine farm workers, with higher colonization rates associated with intensive breeding and animal exposure. Our findings suggest unidirectional animal-to-human transmission of LA-MRSA and denote the high zoonotic transmissibility of the ST398 livestock clade.

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