IOWA CITY, Iowa, April 30 (UPI) -- Pig farmers are more likely to carry the drug-resistant bacteria that causes staph infections. In a recent study, drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was more commonly found on those with regular swine exposure.
Using nose and throat swabs, researchers from the University of Iowa, Kent State University, and the National Cancer Institute studied the bacteria found on some 1,342 Iowans over a 17-month study. Bacteria found in a skin infections was also analyzed.
Overall, some 26 percent of study participants were found to carry staph. But swine farmers and those who worked in the pig farming industry were more likely to carry MDRSA, TRSA, and livestock-associated S. aureus.
"Current swine workers were six times more likely to carry multidrug-resistant S. aureus than those study participants without current swine exposure," study co-author Tara Smith, now an associate professor at Kent State University, explained in a press release.
The presence of staph bacteria isn't uncommon. It's estimated that 30 percent of the public carries the infection-causing germs. But the bacteria's presence does put a person and their immediate contacts at a greater risk of developing a staph infection. Those with diminished or compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable.
"Iowa ranks third nationally in overall livestock production and first in swine production," added Smith. "Transmission of staph between pigs and farmers and into the broader community could complicate efforts to control S. aureus transmission statewide, and have effects nationally due to the travel of pigs and people carrying these bacteria."
Unfortunately, the research doesn't offer any solutions -- only highlights the risks of working with farm animals. A number of studies have shown that overuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry is linked with the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.
The new study was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.