Study finds livestock-related 'Staph' strain in child care worker

May 6, 2011, University of Iowa Health Care

A new strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria associated with exposure to livestock was recently discovered in one Iowa child care worker who reported no contact with livestock, according to University of Iowa researchers.

The discovery was an unexpected finding in a study of Staphylococcus aureus in child day care facilities conducted by Erin Moritz, a doctoral student in epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health, for her dissertation. The finding was reported in a letter written by Moritz and her advisor, Tara Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health. The letter was published in the April issue of the journal, , and is accessible online at: http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/17/4/742.htm.

Moritz's dissertation looked at the occurrence of Staphylococcus aureus, often called "staph," in child day care facilities. As part of that research, she conducted molecular typing on all of the staph isolates found in child care workers and children and on surfaces in participating facilities, and discovered the single occurrence of asymptomatic ST398, a Staphylococcus aureus strain primarily associated with livestock farmers or others who have contact with livestock.

"We weren't expecting it," Moritz said. "Most people who have been found to carry ST398 have had contact with animals, especially agricultural animals, and she (the child care worker) reported no contact. That's what was unique about it."

While ST398 is the same staph strain as the one Smith found in a previous study of Iowa swine and swine workers in 2009, it is not exactly the same type. The ST398 found in the child care worker is treatable with the antibiotic methicillin, while the type found in the 2009 study was methicillin-resistant.

ST398 was first discovered in the Netherlands about five years ago, and most of the research on this strain has been conducted there. To the best of their knowledge, Moritz and Smith's studies are two of only three instances in which the strain has been reported in the United States. The other research team in New York City found ST398 in a population group from the Dominican Republic.

Because the strain was found in one individual out of a very small sample of study participants, it's difficult to draw any conclusions from the finding, Smith said.

"Especially in the U.S., where we don't have a lot of good national surveillance for many , the epidemiology of ST398 is kind of a black box," she said. "So, we're not sure quite yet what it means other than she (the child care worker) did pick this up somehow besides the obvious route of livestock contact.

"We know that about a third of us carry some strain of Staphylococcus aureus. This is just a novel strain that has been picked up in the last five years, and we really don't know a whole lot about it. It's not any worse than your run-of-the-mill human staph that's out there in the community already," Smith added.

This finding should not be a cause for concern among parents and child care workers, according to Moritz, who defended her dissertation in December and will graduate in May. "Child care workers are at increased risk of carrying infectious agents, which is no surprise to anyone," she said.

Moritz encouraged child care staff to follow the standard public health recommendation of frequent hand washing to reduce the spread of all infectious organisms in day care facilities.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New study validates clotting risk factors in chronic kidney disease

January 17, 2018
In late 2017, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) discovered and published (Science Translational Medicine, (9) 417, Nov 2017) a potential treatment target to prevent chronic kidney disease (CKD) ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

Newly-discovered TB blood signal provides early warning for at-risk patients

January 17, 2018
Tuberculosis can be detected in people with HIV infection via a unique blood signal before symptoms appear, according to a new study by researchers from the Crick, Imperial College London and the University of Cape Town.

New study offers insights on genetic indicators of COPD risk

January 16, 2018
Researchers have discovered that genetic variations in the anatomy of the lungs could serve as indicators to help identify people who have low, but stable, lung function early in life, and those who are particularly at risk ...

Previous influenza virus exposures enhance susceptibility in another influenza pandemic

January 16, 2018
While past exposure to influenza A viruses often builds immunity to similar, and sometimes different, strains of the virus, Canadian researchers are calling for more attention to exceptions to that rule.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.