Thehorse.com - Full Article
by: Christy West, TheHorse.com Webmaster
February 05 2009, Article # 13576
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterial infections have become hot news lately, especially among horse people. This topic likely won't die down soon because recent research shows that MRSA is up to 10 times more common in equine veterinarians than in the general population--and that it can spread from horses to humans.
"MRSA appears to be an occupational risk factor for large animal veterinarians," noted Maureen Anderson, DVM, DVSc, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pathobiology of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
At the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif., Anderson discussed MRSA biology, prevalence, and recent research. She reported that MRSA can cause many different problems, from superficial skin/soft tissue infections to necrotizing (tissue-killing) pneumonia. Some hospital-associated strains in humans are resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics, leaving very few effective treatment options for people who become infected. There is increasing concern that some strains might ultimately develop resistance to these few remaining antibiotic weapons.
The general human population has an estimated 0.2-3.5% MRSA colonization rate (carrier state), and contact with horses and pigs appears to increase one's risk of MRSA colonization, noted Anderson. Some studies have shown that large-animal veterinary personnel are up to four times more likely to be colonized than the general population; nearly 16% of large-animal veterinary personnel at a veterinary internal medicine conference were colonized, compared to 4.4% of small-animal veterinary personnel. And at the 2006 AAEP convention, 10.1% of the equine veterinary personnel tested were colonized.