Occurrence of Staphylococcus aureus in swine and swine workplace environments on industrial and antibiotic-free hog operations in North Carolina, USA: A One Health pilot study

Meghan F. Davis, Nora Pisanic, Sarah M. Rhodes, Alexis Brown, Haley Keller, Maya Nadimpalli, Andrea Christ, Shanna Ludwig, Carly Ordak, Kristoffer Spicer, David C. Love, Jesper Larsen, Asher Wright, Sarah Blacklin, Billy Flowers, Jill Stewart, Kenneth G. Sexton, Ana M. Rule, Christopher D. Heaney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Occupational exposure to swine has been associated with increased Staphylococcus aureus carriage, including antimicrobial-resistant strains, and increased risk of infections. To characterize animal and environmental routes of worker exposure, we optimized methods to identify S. aureus on operations that raise swine in confinement with antibiotics (industrial hog operation: IHO) versus on pasture without antibiotics (antibiotic-free hog operation: AFHO). We associated findings from tested swine and environmental samples with those from personal inhalable air samplers on worker surrogates at one IHO and three AFHOs in North Carolina using a new One Health approach. We determined swine S. aureus carriage status by collecting swab samples from multiple anatomical sites, and we determined environmental positivity for airborne bioaerosols with inhalable and impinger samplers and a single-stage impactor (ambient air) cross-sectionally. All samples were analyzed for S. aureus, and isolates were tested for antimicrobial susceptibility, absence of scn (livestock marker), and spa type. Seventeen of twenty (85%) swine sampled at the one IHO carried S. aureus at >1 anatomical sites compared to none of 30 (0%) swine sampled at the three AFHOs. All S. aureus isolates recovered from IHO swine and air samples were scn negative and spa type t337; almost all isolates (62/63) were multidrug resistant. S. aureus was recovered from eight of 14 (67%) ambient air and two (100%) worker surrogate personal air samples at the one IHO, whereas no S. aureus isolates were recovered from 19 ambient and six personal air samples at the three AFHOs. Personal worker surrogate inhalable sample findings were consistent with both swine and ambient air data, indicating the potential for workplace exposure. IHO swine and the one IHO environment could be a source of potential pathogen exposure to workers, as supported by the detection of multidrug-resistant S. aureus (MDRSA) with livestock-associated spa type t337 among swine, worker surrogate personal air samplers and environmental air samples at the one IHO but none of the three AFHOs sampled in this study. Concurrent sampling of swine, personal swine worker surrogate air, and ambient airborne dust demonstrated that IHO workers may be exposed through both direct (animal contact) and indirect (airborne) routes of transmission. Investigation of the effectiveness of contact and respiratory protections is warranted to prevent IHO worker exposure to multidrug-resistant livestock-associated S. aureus and other pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-96
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental research
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Occupational health
  • One Health
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Swine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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