Livestock and pets have been identified as carriers of Staphylococcus aureus; however, the role of wild animals as a reservoir of S. aureus strains has not yet been examined. We conducted a pilot study to determine the prevalence of methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) and methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) in 37 species of wild animals rehabilitated at a university clinic. Nasal, wing, wound, and cloacal swabs were collected. Of 114 animals, seven (6.1%) were MSSA-positive and three (2.6%) were MRSA-positive. The MRSA isolates were obtained from two eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) and a Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), a migratory shorebird. Antibiotic resistance testing of the MRSA isolates revealed that two were additionally resistant to tetracycline and erythromycin, and the third isolate was also resistant to erythromycin, clindamycin, and levofloxacin. All three isolates were positive for the Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) gene. Sequence typing of the staphylococcal protein A (spa) region revealed one MRSA isolate to be t002, whereas the other two MRSA isolates were found to be t008. Our results suggest that S. aureus, including MRSA, is being carried by wild animals, although at a low prevalence with the limited number of animals tested. Additional studies are needed to determine how this may impact human health.
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Vol. 48 • No. 4