Workers are hog farms are at greater risk than the general public of picking up antibiotic-resistant strains of harmful bacteria, according to a new study out of North Carolina.
A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins and the University of North Carolina took nasal swabs from 22 North Carolina hog-facility workers over 14 days and found that 10 of them proved to be "persistent" carriers of Staphylococcus aureus.
Seven of those 10 workers carried a form of Staphylococcus aureus that's resistant to one or more antibiotics.
The results are similar to studies conducted in Ontario, showing the higher incidence of MSRA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) among hog farmers and staff.
The U.S. researchers claim their study is the first to test the persistence of the bacteria strains that workers pick up at livestock farms.
"Researchers had believed that livestock-associated bacteria would clear from the noses of hog workers quickly—within 24 hours," the press release accompanying the report states, but this study indicates the bacteria persisted for four days after they left the hog barns.
While these and other studies suggest that farm workers are moving resistant bacteria from farms and into the world, potentially infecting others, they don't prove that MRSA and other potentially deadly staph strains are spreading from this source, says the news release.
You can carry a staph germ in your nose without becoming infected with it. The authors say they're now studying whether the workers, their families, and their surrounding communities are more prone to infections.
A study team at the University of Iowa reported earlier this year that people who live within a mile of a hog operation are nearly three times more likely to carry MRSA in their noses than the general population.
Last year another research report from Johns Hopkins university studied actual MRSA infections in Pennsylvania and found that people who live near fields treated with liquid hog manure are "significantly" more likely to be treated for infections; and people who live near hog operations showed a "similar but weaker association" with MRSA infection rates.