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PLoS One. 2015 Nov 24;10(11):e0143670. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143670. eCollection 2015.

Prevalence and Characterization of Staphylococcus aureus in Growing Pigs in the USA.

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Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, United States of America.


A decade of research of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) in pigs shows that the prevalence and predominant genotypes (i.e., ST398, ST9, ST5) of MRSA vary widely geographically, yet knowledge of the epidemiology of S. aureus generally in swine remains rudimentary. To characterize S. aureus, including MRSA, in the US swine industry, we sampled 38 swine herds in 11 states in major swine producing regions. The herds sampled included pigs sourced from 9 different breeding stock companies, and the sample was likely biased towards larger herds that use regular veterinary services. Twenty nasal swabs were collected from 36 groups of growing pigs by 36 swine veterinarians, 2 more herds were sampled opportunistically, and a historically MRSA-positive herd was included as a positive control. S. aureus was detected on 37 of the 38 herds, and in 77% of pigs sampled. Other than the positive control herd, no MRSA were detected in the study sample, yielding a 95% upper confidence limit of 9.3% for MRSA herd prevalence. All but two (ST1-t127; ST2007-t8314) of 1200 isolates belonged to three MLST lineages (ST9, ST398, and ST5) that have been prominent in studies of MRSA in pigs globally. A total of 35 spa types were detected, with the most prevalent being t337 (ST9), t034 (ST398), and t002 (ST5). A purposively diverse subset of 128 isolates was uniformly negative on PCR testing for major enterotoxin genes. The findings support previous studies suggesting a relatively low herd prevalence of MRSA in the US swine industry, but confirm that methicillin susceptible variants of the most common MRSA genotypes found in swine globally are endemic in the US. The absence of enterotoxin genes suggests that the source of toxigenic S. aureus capable of causing foodborne enterotoxicosis from pork products is most likely post-harvest contamination.

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