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Epidemics. 2012 Dec;4(4):171-8. doi: 10.1016/j.epidem.2012.09.001. Epub 2012 Sep 15.

Disease transmission on fragmented contact networks: livestock-associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in the Danish pig-industry.

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Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution, University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, UK.


Animal trade in industrialised livestock-production systems creates a complex, heterogeneous, contact network that shapes between-herd transmission of infectious diseases. We report the results of a simple mathematical model that explores patterns of spread and persistence of livestock-associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) in the Danish pig-industry associated with this trade network. Simulations show that LA-MRSA can become endemic sustained by animal movements alone. Despite the extremely low predicted endemic prevalence, eradication may be difficult, and decreasing within-farm prevalence, or the time it takes a LA-MRSA positive farm to recover a negative status, fails to break long-term persistence. Our results suggest that a low level of non-movement induced transmission strongly affects MRSA dynamics, increasing endemic prevalence and probability of persistence. We also compare the model-predicted risk of 291 individual farms becoming MRSA positive, with results from a recent Europe-wide survey of LA-MRSA in holdings with breeding pigs, and find a significant correlation between contact-network connectivity properties and the model-estimated risk measure.

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