Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

High-Density Livestock Production and Molecularly Characterized MRSA Infections in Pennsylvania

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

High-Density Livestock Production and Molecularly Characterized MRSA Infections in Pennsylvania

Article excerpt


Over the past decade, the incidence of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) (CA-MRSA) infection has increased in the United States (Dukic et al. 2013). These CA-MRSA infections cost third-party payers between $478 and $2,200 million annually (Lee et al. 2013). Beginning in the mid-2000s, European research suggested that a portion of the increased incidence of CA-MRSA might be attributable to high-density livestock production because studies had isolated the same MRSA strains from infected farmers and their livestock (Harrison et al. 2013; Hartmeyer et al. 2010). In Europe, multi locus sequence type (ST) 398 has been the most common colonizer of livestock, specifically swine, and swine farmers (Graveland et al. 2010; Lewis et al. 2008). This association has led many to refer to ST398 as livestock-associated MRSA (LA-MRSA) (Price et al. 2012). Importantly, pathways for community transmission have been identified, with MRSA isolated from the air and soil at least 150 m from swine facilities (Gibbs et al. 2006; Schulz et al. 2012) and from meat processing and consumption (Molla et al. 2012; Waters et al. 2011).

To our knowledge, no North American studies have evaluated residence in rural communities as a risk factor for MRSA infection of specific molecular types. Four studies of colonization in farmers have disparate findings. The first reported ST398 as the only type colonizing swine and farmers (Smith et al. 2009); the second found mainly ST398, but also ST5 (Khanna et al. 2008); and two more recent studies identified ST5 [t002 by S. aureus protein A (spa) typing (Monecke et al. 2011)] as the primary colonizer of swine and of veterinary students visiting farms (Frana et al. 2013; Molla et al. 2012). In the United States, ST5 has been considered to be a health care-associated MRSA clone, but it has begun to appear in the community in persons without health care risk factors (Klevens et al. 2006). Nearly all MRSA isolates associated with livestock colonization lack the genes encoding Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) (Smith et al. 2009; Sunde et al. 2011). Finally, recent studies have reported that sen, the gene encoding staphylococcal complement inhibitor (SCIN), is often absent in MRSA strains that colonize livestock (McCarthy et al. 2011; Sung et al. 2008; Verkaik et al. 2011).

In a previous study in Pennsylvania using electronic health records from 2005 through 2010 from a large health care system, we reported associations between CA-MRSA infection and residential proximity to high-density livestock operations and the crop fields to which manure was applied (Casey et al. 2013b). Due to the retrospective study design, we were unable to obtain MRSA isolates from patients. The objectives of the present study were to a) prospectively collect MRSA isolates from patients residing in communities with and without high-density livestock production, b) characterize these isolates by spa typing and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the presence of lukF-lukS genes (encoding PVL) and for the scn gene, and c) assess associations of high-density livestock production with the molecular subgroups.


Setting, study design, and participants. The study area was a 38-county region of central and northeast Pennsylvania with 3.8 million inhabitants in which Geisinger Health System provides primary care services from 41 community practice clinics (Figure 1).

The primary care population is representative of the region's population (Casey et al. 2013b). We compared patients infected with two specific MRSA strains to patients infected with all other strains as described below. Institutional review boards at the Geisinger Health System and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health approved the study and waived informed consent.

Patients with MRSA infection identified by culture between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2012, who had a Geisinger primary care provider, were eligible for inclusion. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.