MRSA and Other Drug-Resistant Bacteria in Wildlife a Threat to People?

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MRSA was found in animals at a wildlife hospital in Iowa. Photo credit: NIH

Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) has been found in newborn rabbits and migratory shorebirds during a survey at a wildlife hospital in Iowa.

A pilot study looked for the prevalence of MRSA and Methicillin-Sensitive Staphyloccus Aureus (MSSA) in wild animals admitted for rehabilitation.

Decoded Science talked with Dr. Tara C. Smith, Associate Professor, University of Iowa Department of Epidemiology, about their findings.

Dr. Smith told Decoded Science that, for most people, wildlife are not likely to be a primary factor in exposure to MRSA.

For those who routinely work with wildlife or spend a significant amount of time outdoors, however, she recommends reasonable safety precautions, noting that wildlife may carry other pathogens as well.

MRSA in Wildlife: The Central Iowa Study

Of  114 animals cultured, representing 37 separate species, only three (2.6%) were MRSA positive. One was a lesser yellowlegs, a migratory shorebird which could have been exposed to the bacteria at any point along its route. The other two cases, a pair of young eastern cottontail rabbits, were littermates. The two types of MRSAs cultured from the three animals showed resistance to other antibiotics as well.

MSSA was found in 7 animals (6.1%) and, of those seven cases, two were found to be resistant to tetracycline. One MSSA case was also resistant to glygopeptide antibiotics, a group which includes vancomycin, often the drug of choice for treating MRSA.

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