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MRSA transmission between horses and vets: who's doing the infecting?
  1. Gerrit Koop, DVM, PhD
  1. Department of Farm Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht 3584 CL, The Netherlands
  1. e-mail: g.koop{at}

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METICILLIN-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a major health problem in people. About 30 per cent of the general population are nasal carriers of Staphylococcus aureus, and only a small proportion carry MRSA (Kluytmans and others 1997, Mainous and others 2006). However, in a hospital environment this proportion is generally much higher, although large differences exist between countries. Healthcare workers are regularly colonised (transiently or persistently) and are likely to play a role in the transmission within the hospital setting (Albrich and Harbarth 2008).

In horses, MRSA seems to behave in a similar way. Healthy horses carry MRSA at low prevalence, but in equine hospitals the prevalence is much higher (Van Balen and others 2014, Tirosh-Levy and others 2015) and nosocomial MRSA infections in horses leading to serious and sometimes fatal conditions have previously been described (Kuroda and others 2015). However, the high prevalence of MRSA in equine hospitals is not only a risk for the horses, but also for the personnel involved. Veterinarians are at an increased risk of carrying MRSA compared to the general population, but equine veterinarians are at an even higher risk than veterinarians working with other animal species (Jordan and others 2011, Cuny and others 2016). Transmission from hospitalised horses to their veterinarians therefore seems to occur, but as in the human healthcare situation where healthcare workers may infect patients, …

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