University study shows heightened risk for livestock workers

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A new study on livestock production and drug resistance released Tuesday by the journal PLOS ONE supports findings from earlier studies in Iowa showing greater risk for employees around antibiotics.

Study results are based on a collection of nose swabs from workers at two North Carolina farms. One was a livestock operation where animals were raised in large confinement buildings using antibiotics, the other farm primarily kept animals on pastures and grew livestock without the use of antibiotics.

According to Science Daily, results of the study show drug-resistant bacteria associated with livestock in the noses of industrial livestock workers, but not in the noses of workers from the other farm. The bacteria observed were Staphylococcus aureus, which includes the well-known bug MRSA.

The study found the livestock operators working in large confinement buildings were twice as likely to have S. aureus that is multidrug-resistant compared to the other farm.

"This study shows that these livestock-associated strains are present among workers at industrial livestock operations and that these strains are resistant not just to methicillin, but to multiple antibiotics -- including antibiotics that are used to treat human infections," said Christopher Heaney, PhD, corresponding author of the study and assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study was conducted by researchers by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, the George Washington University, and the Statens Serum Institute.

Read more here.

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Kansas  |  July, 03, 2013 at 01:56 PM

Perhaps these workers should have Dan Murphy set them up a meeting with an industry spokesperson who could kindly explain to them that this isn't really happening. Sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics will be banned. The industry had better just warm up to that idea and make the necessary adjustments now to avoid the pains later.

Andrew Goodrich    
Washington  |  July, 11, 2013 at 12:46 AM

Jeremy, Denmark banned sub therapeutic use of antibiotics years ago and there have been absolutely no benefits to the human population. It has also put thousands of Danish farmers out if business, led to increased use of antibiotics for sick animals (and keep in mind sub therapeutic antibiotics are not the same antibiotics used in people. Once an animal shows clinical signs, them we have to use the same drugs.) Finally, it's led to increased mortality rates in livestock operations. I hope the lawmakers use science and information like that to make the correct decision instead of caving to the flawed public opinion.

shaun evertson    
Nebraska  |  July, 08, 2013 at 09:28 AM

Pure cargo cult science. Tiny sample size and no control. This study is statistically invalid and no conclusions can be drawn from it other than that bacteria are ubiquitous. Believe it or not, it takes more than a lab coat and deep political convictions to practice science.

Ok  |  July, 08, 2013 at 02:15 PM

Did anyone stop to think that a confined area is going to have more staph and more everything for the smiple reason it is a confined area. Comparing Colsed to open is not a true comperson. The dust inhaled alone could have been the reason for it being found in the nose. These people need to get real and fine there 15:00 min. of fame some where else.