Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Occupational and Environmental Health

First Advisor

Donham, Kelley J

First Committee Member

Field, R William

Second Committee Member

Smith, Tara C

Third Committee Member

Thorne, Peter S

Fourth Committee Member

Ramirez, Alejandro


This research focuses on occupational exposures associated with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in modern pork production facilities. This dissertation is composed of three related parts.

In Chapter II, "Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in pork production shower facilities" we documented the presence of MRSA in shower facilities of conventional swine production systems where pigs were colonized with MRSA. We tested farms involved in different production phases (sow, nursery, and finisher) and geographical locations. In the two swine production systems studied, 3% and 26% of shower samples were positive for MRSA. Overall, the prevalence in showers was 19%.

In Chapter III, "Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in pork production shower facilities: Adapting interventions from athletic facilities," we searched the literature for interventions designed to decrease MRSA infections in athletes. We then evaluated these interventions for adaptability to the pork production environment, and composed swine-specific guidelines for MRSA prevention. We implemented our intervention in a pilot study to reduce MRSA in showers and locker rooms and results were mixed. We recommend repeating this study with a larger sample, and better intervention management and oversight.

In Chapter IV, "Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection in pork production workers," we sought to determine if pork producers report veterinarian-diagnosed antibiotic-resistant skin infections in pigs, and physician-diagnosed antibiotic-resistant skin infections in workers (including MRSA). We then examined potential risk factors for infection associated with biosecurity, including shower and laundry procedures, farm-specific clothing use (clothing worn only while working on the farm), and personal hygiene. No significant risk factors were identified for either skin infections in pigs or skin infections in workers.

These studies provide evidence that MRSA can be found in pork production shower facilities, and that occupational exposures occur due to components of the biosecurity protocol. We designed and implemented an intervention to decrease the level of MRSA in showers. Our pilot intervention suggested that the impact of showers as environmental reservoirs can be reduced. We also reported the first prevalence estimate of MRSA infection in pork production workers in the United States. Livestock-associated MRSA remains an emerging issue and requires further study to determine the true occupational and public health risks.


MRSA, Swine, Zoonoses


ix, 123 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 106-123).


Copyright 2010 Kerry Reah Leedom Larson