Farm workers take drug resistant bacteria home

Posted Sep 15, 2014 by Tim Sandle
A new study has found that over half of farm workers who look after animals in industrial hog farms carry home hog-related bacteria in their noses. This is potentially harmful for the farm workers and their families.
A farmer in the Netherlands gave his pigs a water slide to keep cool in summer.
A farmer in the Netherlands gave his pigs a water slide to keep cool in summer.
These concerns are based on a North Carolina study. The concern is not so much based on farm workers picking up bacteria from the animals (this is something that has happened since animals were first domesticated) — this issue is with antibiotic resistant bacteria. Because many farms use high levels of antibiotics, in order to promote animal health, the development of antibiotic resistant strains has occurred in tandem. This is similar to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals.
Farmers adding antibiotics to animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry and other food-producing animals to help them gain weight faster or use less food to gain weight, is often criticized. This is a practice that is seen by many scientists as augmenting antibiotic-resistance in humans.
The study shows that many farm workers breathe in some of these antibiotic resistant bacteria. The concern is that if an infection should subsequently develop, then the bacteria would be hard to treat. The concern extends further because there is also a risk of spreading these particular types of hardy germs into the wider community.
The focus of the research was with antibiotic resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, especially MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Samples were taken from 22 hog workers over a three-month period, during which time nasal swabs were taken and sent for analysis. It was found that 10 of the 22 workers (46 percent) were continual carriers of antibiotic resistant Staph. This means that the farm workers had these strains in their noses all of the times they provided samples
The findings have been reported in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The research is headed “Persistence of livestock-associated antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among industrial hog operation workers in North Carolina over 14 days.”