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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The increase of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and the presence of an unusual sequence type ST49 in slaughter pigs in Switzerland

Gudrun Overesch12, Sabina Büttner3, Alexandra Rossano1 and Vincent Perreten1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Veterinary Bacteriology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Länggass-Strasse 122, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

2 Centre for Zoonoses, Animal Bacterial Diseases and Antibiotic Resistance (ZOBA), Institute of Veterinary Bacteriology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Länggass-Strasse 122, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

3 Federal Veterinary Office, Schwarzenburgstrasse 155, CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland

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BMC Veterinary Research 2011, 7:30  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-7-30

Published: 24 June 2011



In years past, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) has been frequently detected in pigs in Europe, North America and Asia. Recent, yet sporadic studies have revealed a low occurrence of MRSA in Switzerland. In 2009, a monitoring survey of the prevalence and genetic diversity of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) in slaughter pigs in Switzerland was conducted using methods recommended by the EU guidelines, and using a sampling strategy evenly distributed throughout the year and representative of the Swiss slaughter pig population. Monitoring should determine if the overall prevalence of MRSA in the entire country is increasing over the years and if specific multi-resistant MRSA clones are spreading over the country.


In 2009, the nasal cavities of eight out of 405 randomly selected pigs were positive for MRSA, representing a prevalence of 2.0% (95% CI 0.9-3.9). The following year, 23 out of 392 pigs were positive for MRSA [5.9% prevalence (95% CI 3.8-8.7)]. Three multilocus sequence types (ST), four spa types and two types of staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) elements were detected. The most frequent genotypes were ST398 (MLST)-(spa)t034-V(SCCmec) (n = 18) and ST49-t208-V (n = 7), followed by ST398-t011-V (n = 4), ST398-t1451-V (n = 1), and ST1-t2279-IVc (n = 1). The isolates displayed resistance to ß-lactams [mecA, (31/31); blaZ, (19/31)]; tetracycline [tet(M), (31/31); tet(K), (30/31)] (n = 31); macrolides and lincosamides [erm(C) (4/31) or erm(A) (18/31)] (n = 22); tiamulin [vga(A)v (9/31) or unknown mechanism (18/31)] (n = 27); trimethoprim [dfr(G) (18/31); spectinomycin [ant(9)-Ia (19/31) or unknown mechanism (3/31)] (n = 22); streptomycin [str (19/31)]; sulphamethoxazole (7/31) and ciprofloxacin (n = 1) (mechanisms not determined).


This study is the first to describe the presence of MRSA ST49 in slaughter pigs, and to demonstrate a significant and nearly three-fold increase of MRSA prevalence in pigs within two years. The presence of a specific clonal lineage of MRSA from Switzerland suggests that it has been selected in Swiss pig husbandry. Effective hygiene measures should be enhanced within the entire pig production chain to suppress the spread of these pathogens into the community.