Young children who reside with adults who work on large industrial hog operations in rural North Carolina had a higher prevalence of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in their nasal passages than children who live with adults who live in the same community but do not work on such operations, a new study suggests.
While no children or adults participating in the study became sick, the researchers say the findings raise concerns because of how many children living with hog workers carried potentially harmful antibiotic-resistant S. aureus—methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and multidrug-resistant S. aureus (MDRSA) —in their noses. The study, which will be published online Oct. 18 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, also raises the question of whether the bacteria might be able to travel home on the protective clothing and equipment worn by the workers.
In Europe, studies have shown that children living with industrial hog operation workers are at risk of acquiring drug-resistant staph from their parents, carrying these strains in their noses and also developing staph infections. This has led the European Union to restrict the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics that promote pig growth to ready them for market sooner.