Drivers and Dynamics of Methicillin-Resistant Livestock-Associated Staphylococcus aureus CC398 in Pigs and Humans in Denmark

Raphael N Sieber*, Robert L Skov, Jens Nielsen, Jana Schulz, Lance B Price, Frank Møller Aarestrup, Anders R Larsen, Marc Stegger, Jesper Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

246 Downloads (Pure)


The spread of livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus clonal complex 398 (LA-MRSA CC398) within the Danish pig production system has been linked to an increased number of human infections. Yet, the population structure and transmission dynamics of this important pathogen remain poorly understood. In this study, whole-genome sequences from 371 LA-MRSA CC398 isolates collected between 2004 and 2015 were subjected to bioinformatic analyses. The isolates originated from Danish pig farms (n = 209) and people having livestock contact (n = 79). In addition, whole-genome sequence data from 82 isolates representing an international reference collection and 83 isolates from Danish patients were included in the analysis. The results demonstrated that the increasing prevalence of LA-MRSA CC398 in Danish pigs and patients was caused by clonal expansion of three dominant lineages. The results also showed that these lineages were enriched for the tetracycline resistance gene tet(K) and other determinants conferring resistance to some of the most frequently used antimicrobials in Danish pigs. The association between pig movements and the spread of LA-MRSA CC398 was assessed in a Poisson regression analysis of 17,009 pig movements into 273 farms with known LA-MRSA CC398 status. The results demonstrated that animal movements have played a critical role in the dissemination of LA-MRSA CC398 within the Danish pig production system, although other transmission routes may also have contributed. Consistent with this scenario, the genetic relatedness of isolates from different farms was positively correlated with the number of animal movements between the farms.IMPORTANCE Livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus clonal complex CC398 (LA-MRSA CC398) is resistant to nearly all β-lactams and several non-β-lactam antimicrobials. Over the last decade, it has become widespread in pig farms across Europe and is now an important cause of human infections in countries with previously low levels of MRSA, such as the Netherlands and Denmark. The hitherto uncontrolled spread of LA-MRSA CC398 underscores an urgent need to understand its epidemiology in order to develop evidence-based interventions. This study demonstrates that pig movements between farms in combination with increased bacterial resistance to specific antibiotics and heavy metals were important drivers of the rapid spread of LA-MRSA CC398 in the Danish pig production system. These findings should be taken into consideration when researchers and policy makers evaluate and decide on actions and policies to limit the spread of LA-MRSA CC398 and other pathogens in food animals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02142-18
Issue number6
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • CC398
  • MRSA
  • ST398
  • Animal movements
  • Livestock
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Pigs
  • Swine
  • Zoonotic infections


Dive into the research topics of 'Drivers and Dynamics of Methicillin-Resistant Livestock-Associated Staphylococcus aureus CC398 in Pigs and Humans in Denmark'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this