Research/studies Agriculture, forestry and fishing Workplace exposures

Hog workers carry bacteria for days: study

Chapel Hill, NC – Nearly half of hog workers may carry drug-resistant bacteria in their noses after they leave work, potentially spreading the bacteria to their families and others, according to a recent study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and John Hopkins University.

Researchers examined nasal swabs from 22 hog workers in North Carolina for two weeks. Nearly all the workers (19) carried at least one type of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and 16 had the livestock-related strain at least once during the study period.

Researchers found that the potentially dangerous bacteria can stay with a worker for up to four days. The longer the bacteria remain in workers’ noses, the more likely they are to spread it to others. A large amount of the S. aureus they carried is resistant to antibiotics, likely because of drug use for treating hogs, according to researchers. The bacteria have been linked to a higher risk of staph infections.

In all or all but one of the samples taken, 10 workers carried livestock-related staph, six had the multi-drug resistant S. aureus and one had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as MRSA).

The study was published online Sept. 8 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.