New MRSA threat from your pet

July 24, 2009


Not literally a bite I hope, but MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has rarely been out of the headlines, and as if we haven’t got enough to worry about with superbug infection it now seems our family pets could be carriers. And what’s worse, not only of MRSA but at least 30 other pathogens as well.

This study comes from the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa and reported in The Lancet. It confirms that MRSA can cycle back and forth between cats and dogs and their owners. It’s probably you that starts the cycle by passing it on to your pet where it sets up home and is the gift that keeps on giving as they return it back to you.

This isn’t unknown, but it certainly isn’t widely publicised. As far back as 1988, researchers reported that a cat living in a UK geriatric unit had passed MRSA back to both patients and staff. Analysis showed that 38% of the nursing staff were affected by the repassing of the bug. In 2006, researchers isolated MRSA from the skin lesions of a three-year-old domestic shorthaired cat with flea allergy and — for the first time in a household pet — confirmed the pathogen as a USA300 clone. This is a major source of skin soft-tissue infection and the cat’s owner had suffered from repeated soft-tissue staphylococcal infections but without ever thinking it was passed on from the cat.

Treatment if your pet decides to share with you is the same as for any MRSA infection, but prevention is a better bet. So first of all pay attention to keeping your pet clean, and maintaining immunizations and dealing quickly with any parasites such as fleas. We all love stroking our pets, but just make sure that frequent hand washing with a good antibacterial soap or liquid follows and always before touching or preparing food.


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