Frequency of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Fattening Pigs in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Karine Ludwig Takeuti, Carolina Maciel Malgarin, Amanda Figueiredo Amaral, David Emilio Santos Neves de Barcellos


Background: Staphylococcus (S.) aureus is an important nosocomial pathogen in humans and animals worldwide. The commonest class of antibiotics used to treat staphylococcal infections is the β-lactams. Frequently, S. aureus strains show high resistance to methicillin and other β-lactam antibiotics, called “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” (MRSA). Although MRSA has emerged at slower rate in domestic animals, it has frequently been found in the nasal cavity of healthy piglets and its transmission between pigs and swine handlers has already been studied. The aim of this work was to assess the presence of MRSA in finishing pigs in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Materials, Methods & Results: A total of 350 nasal swabs were collected from 10 to 20 week old finishing pigs. Sampling was performed in five pig farms in northeast Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil. Swabs were stored in tubes without transport medium and carried to the laboratory under refrigeration. The specimens were cultured in selective and differential Agar (Baird Parker) and then were incubated at 37ºC for 48 h. After isolation of typical colonies of S. aureus, they were inoculated in BHI (Brain Heart Infusion) broth at 37ºC for 24 h and tested for tube coagulase activity. Coagulase positive samples were selected for growth in Oxacillin Resistant Screening Agar (ORSA) supplemented with 2 mg/L of oxacillin. This media contains aniline blue to demonstrate mannitol fermentation. Oxacillin and 5.5% NaCl have the capacity to reduce the growth of non-staphylococcal bacteria, selecting for MRSA.  Blue colonies growth after 24 to 48 h of incubation at 37ºC indicate the presence of positive MRSA strains. Specimens with at least one colony growing in ORSA within 48 h were considered resistant. Linear regression was performed in order to identify the association between herd size and MRSA frequency (SAS 9.4, 2012). Growth of S. aureus occurred on 18.0% of the samples and differences among farms were found. However, after incubation in ORSA only 18 (5.1%) were MRSA positive, ranging from zero to 12.5% among farms.  Significant correlation between herd size and MRSA frequency (adjusted r² = 0.978; P = 0.001) was observed.

Discussion: In a previous study in pig herds in Brazil examining swine nasal swabs, 22.5% was positive for S. aureus and none for MRSA. One of 5 farms tested in our work also had no positive animals and 4 of them showed low frequencies, ranging from 1.7% to 12.5% with an average of 5.1%. Our results were similar to those found in Asian countries, but were very different from European data. Some factors can be associated with MRSA frequency in pig farms, such as dust, air contamination, poor hygiene, age, herd size, replacement rate and number of sources. In the present work we found a strong positive correlation (r² adjusted = 0.978; P = 0.001) between herd size and MRSA frequency, such as detected by previous authors. It might occur due to a higher risk of bacterial introduction and higher pressure of infection, easing dissemination of MRSA. Herd size may be a crucial factor to explain the frequencies found, since farms had very similar facilities and handling practices. Although the average frequency has been low in this work when compared to other countries, MRSA was present in almost all farms. This bacteria is able to transmit mecA gene to S. aureus susceptible populations, increasing MRSA frequencies over time.


swine; MRSA; resistance; nasal swabs.

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