Objectives: Livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) emergence is a major public health concern. This study was aimed at assessing risk factors for persistently carrying MRSA in veal calf farmers and their family members. We also evaluate the dynamics of MRSA environmental load during the veal-calf production cycle. Design: Observational, longitudinal, repeated cross-sectional study. Setting: 52 veal calf farms in the Netherlands. Participants: From the end of 2010 to the end of 2011, a total of 211 farmers, family members and employees were included in the study. Primary outcome and secondary outcome measures: Nasal swabs were taken from participants on days 0, 4, 7 and week 12. A persistent MRSA carrier was defined as a person positive for MRSA on days 0, 4 and 7. Participants filled in an extensive questionnaire to identify potential risk factors and confounders. For estimation of MRSA prevalence in calves and environmental contamination, animal nasal swabs and Electrostatic Dust Collectors were taken on day 0 and week 12. Results: The presence of potential animal reservoirs (free-ranging farm cats and sheep) and the level of contact with veal calves was positively associated with persistent MRSA carriage. Interestingly, at the end of the study (week 12), there was a twofold rise in animal prevalence and a significantly higher MRSA environmental load in the stables was found on farms with MRSA carriers. Conclusions: This study supports the hypothesis that environmental contamination with MRSA plays a role in the acquisition of MRSA in farmers and their household members and suggests that other animal species should also be targeted to implement effective control strategies.
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