Colonization of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in food producing animals has public health implications, but intervention targets have not yet been identified. In this field study occurrence and dynamics of MRSA in veal calves were investigated longitudinally on three farms. Determinants generally associated with MRSA carriage, such as environmental exposure and antimicrobial use, were explored. In addition, the reliability and reproducibility of MRSA detection in nasal samples from veal calves were investigated as well as the additional value of rectal samples to establish MRSA status of an individual animal. On these three farms, MRSA prevalence and MRSA air loads in stables rapidly increased during the production cycle, especially after releasing calves from their individual houses, but not simultaneously with or directly after treatment with antimicrobials. These observations constitute the hypothesis that antimicrobial use may not necessarily be the only condition for MRSA transmission in veal calves, but indicate that other factors may contribute to transmission as well. MRSA in calves was present both nasally and rectally. The reproducibility and repeatability of the nasal samples were moderate. The results of this study give a better understanding of the dynamics of MRSA in a field situation.
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