A Swedish researcher has cast a spotlight on Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in equine hospitals and the kinds of measures needed to control it.
Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics have become a serious threat to humans and animals.
MRSA is one such example. MRSA infections in horses are difficult to treat, as there are so few effective antibiotics.
By improving hygiene in hospital care for animals, the spread of resistant bacteria can be reduced, Karin Bergström, of the Swedish National Veterinary Institute, has shown in research for her doctoral thesis.
Her study has provided insights into MRSA in horses and emphasizes the importance of measures to prevent infections in equine hospitals.
The findings will be able to be used to enhance measures to prevent the MRSA spread in equine hospitals.
“An infection-control program requires continuous work with audits, training, and monitoring. Hospital leaders need to give their support by allocating resources and by their active engagement,” Bergström says.
“The introduction of infection-prevention and control measures is a self-evident responsibility of horse hospitals, as MRSA involves both patient safety and the working environment,” says Bergström, who is assistant state veterinarian.
In the summer of 2008, MRSA-infected horses were found at an equine hospital in Sweden.
A key observation was that infections of superficial wounds, from which most of the horses were suffering, healed without treatment with antibiotics. This led to increased interest in preventing MRSA in equine healthcare.
The bacteria in the outbreak turned out to belong to a type of MRSA called CC398. This type is associated with food-producing animals, but it has also been found in horses in Europe.
It was the first time this type of bacteria was confirmed as the cause of infections in animals in Sweden.
Of a total of nine horses that could be monitored after the infection, all but one returned negative samples within two to seven months, and their nostrils proved to be the most reliable sampling site for revealing MRSA.
Collaboration between the hospital where the infection had spread, expertise in healthcare hygiene in human medicine, and public authorities contributed to the development of a program for infection control.
The environment at a horse hospital presents challenges, Bergström says, and further studies are needed regarding how this environment can be adapted.
For example, the development of surface materials that are suited to horses and at the same time are easy to disinfect aided infection control in horse healthcare.
Environmental sampling showed that MRSA was prevalent in places accessible only to humans, which meant that hand hygiene can be improved. Moreover, MRSA was found on furnishings that are difficult to clean.
Therefore, mangers and water cups were replaced by buckets that could be disinfected.
Observations at three horse hospitals showed that routines regarding work clothing and the like were complied with in an exemplary manner. Compliance with routines for hand hygiene and disposable gloves was somewhat poorer. Reasons given for this were practical difficulties, insufficient knowledge, and high workloads.
Bergström will publicly defend her thesis at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Clinical Centre in Ultuna, room 1, at 9.15 am on June 5.
The title of her dissertation is Prevention and control of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in equine hospitals in Sweden.