Despite active research into methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in pigs since 2004, the ecology of the susceptible ancestral organism has been neglected. A longitudinal study of pigs in 2 intensive production systems was conducted to investigate the effects of age and anatomical site on detection of S. aureus. Sampling was replicated in 2 cohorts per farm, with swabs collected from the nares, tonsils, skin (axilla), and rectum in lactating sows, suckling, weaned, and market-age pigs, plus the vagina of sows. No MRSA were isolated, but S. aureus was detected in a least 1 site in 175 (91.1%) out of 192 pigs. Pig-level prevalence did not differ among the age groups, but the proportion of positive samples (all sites) was higher in market-age pigs (75.2%) and nursery-age pigs (63.2%) than in sows (40.7%) and suckling piglets (38%). Prevalence did not differ among nasal (67.9%), skin (62.3%), and tonsil (61.7%) swabs, but was lower in rectal (42%) and vaginal swabs (39.6%). Multiple multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and spa types were found in both production systems, but all isolates were of ST398, ST9, or ST5. These MLST lineages have been variably predominant among reports of MRSA in pigs on 3 continents, and the presence of methicillin-sensitive variants in several countries raises the likelihood that MRSA in pigs has likely resulted from independent acquisition of the mecA gene by multiple S. aureus lineages that have been adapted to swine over the long term, rather than recent introduction of novel clones into swine populations.
- Staphylococcus aureus