SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

Drug-resistant bacteria found in workers at industrial farms

Drug-resistant bacteria associated with livestock were found in the noses of North Carolina industrial livestock workers, but not in workers handling antibiotic-free livestock, according to a study published on Tuesday in PLOS ONE.

A team of researchers confirmed earlier findings in Iowa by determining that the use of antibiotics in animals resulted in drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria among industrial livestock workers in North Carolina. The team expressed concerns that the livestock-associated bacteria could go from farm workers to hospitals and the community settings, as the bacteria previously did in Europe.

The researchers based the study on interviews and nose swabs collected and analyzed from individuals working at two different types of livestock operations. The scientists tested the S. aureus isolated from nose swabs for resistance to multiple antibiotics.

"This study shows that these livestock-associated strains are present among workers at industrial livestock operations and that these strains are resistant not just to methicillin, but to multiple antibiotics -- including antibiotics that are used to treat human infections," Christopher Heaney, the corresponding author of the study, said.

The researchers determined that multi-drug-resistant S. aureus was approximately twice as prevalent among individuals exposed to the industrial operation compared to an antibiotic-free livestock operation.

S. aureus can cause a range of human illnesses, including skin, respiratory, bloodstream, surgical site and urinary infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some staph cannot be killed by antibiotics because they develop resistance.

The research team included scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, George Washington University, the Statens Serum Institute and the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help.