Occurrence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in surface waters near industrial hog operation spray fields

S. M. Hatcher, K. W. Myers, C. D. Heaney, J. Larsen, D. Hall, M. B. Miller, J. R. Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Industrial hog operations (IHOs) have been identified as a source of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). However, few studies have investigated the presence of antibiotic-resistant S. aureus in the environment near IHOs, specifically surface waters proximal to spray fields where IHO liquid lagoon waste is sprayed. Surface water samples (n = 179) were collected over the course of approximately one year from nine locations in southeastern North Carolina and analyzed for the presence of presumptive MRSA using CHROMagar MRSA media. Culture-based, biochemical, and molecular tests, as well as matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry were used to confirm that isolates that grew on CHROMagar MRSA media were S. aureus. Confirmed S. aureus isolates were then tested for susceptibility to 16 antibiotics and screened for molecular markers of MRSA (mecA, mecC) and livestock adaptation (absence of scn). A total of 12 confirmed MRSA were detected in 9 distinct water samples. Nine of 12 MRSA isolates were also multidrug-resistant (MDRSA [i.e., resistant to ≥ 3 antibiotic classes]). All MRSA were scn-positive and most (11/12) belonged to a staphylococcal protein A (spa) type t008, which is commonly associated with humans. Additionally, 12 confirmed S. aureus that were methicillin-susceptible (MSSA) were recovered, 7 of which belonged to spa type t021 and were scn-negative (a marker of livestock-adaptation). This study demonstrated the presence of MSSA, MRSA, and MDRSA in surface waters adjacent to IHO lagoon waste spray fields in southeastern North Carolina. To our knowledge, this is the first report of waterborne S. aureus from surface waters proximal to IHOs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1028-1036
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 23 2016


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Industrial hog operations
  • MRSA
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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