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Living near a livestock farm may increase your risk of acquiring an antibiotic-resistant infection, according to a new study led by researchers from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In reviewing data from the Netherlands, a team of Hopkins and Dutch scientists found that the odds of being exposed to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, are greatest in the southeast region of that European country, an area with many livestock farms. The risks were not limited to the farmers themselves, but were also elevated for people living near herds of cattle, pigs or veal calves, the researchers said. Their findings, in the November issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, can be read here.

MRSA most commonly causes skin infections, but it can also produce pneumonia or more severe and potentially life-threatening infections in the bloodstream and at surgical sites. While in the past believed to be mainly a problem in hospitals and other health care facilities, more cases are turning up in non-health settings.  More than 40 percent of the MRSA cases in the Netherlands have been associated with livestock, according to the study.

After factoring out farmers and other people in direct contact with farm animals, researchers found the odds of someone being exposed to the strain of MRSA associated with livestock were nearly  25 percent greater if they lived near pigs and 77 percent higher if near cattle.