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METICILLIN-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is an important zoonosis that has increased in prevalence over the past decade, with up to 2 per cent of human beings acting as carriers, posing a risk to in-contact animals (Tattevin and others 2009, Loeffler and Lloyd 2010, Couto and others 2011). Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis has been used to separate MRSA strains into community-associated strains, which are sensitive to many non-β-lactam antibiotics, and hospital-associated strains, which are usually multidrug-resistant (Johnson and others 2007, Tattevin and others 2009). The two major strains of community-associated MRSA in the USA are USA300 and USA400 (Bootsma and others 2010).
MRSA has been isolated from most domestic animal species. Strains isolated from dogs and cats are usually human-associated strains (Loeffler and Lloyd 2010), whereas MRSA isolates from horses vary genetically from common human isolates. Food animals are often infected with a unique MRSA lineage that has evolved independently from common human S aureus clones (Loeffler and Lloyd 2010). Strains have also been isolated from wild and captive marine mammals (Faires and others 2009, Schaefer and others 2009). Following the isolation of MRSA from the blowhole of a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus …