Pet cats and dogs may carry the MRSA superbug

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Scientists at Cambridge University have stated that MRSA may be carried by pets and passed on to their owners.

The same strain of the bacteria is carried by people, cats and dogs. Animals may become infected during bouts at veterinary clinics, in the same manner as humans are infected during hospital stays.

However, scientists said pet owners should not give this due concern as the risk of infection from pets is very low.

The bacteria are often carried on human skin and show no symptoms, but it can lead to infection, particularly when it enters wounds.

Figures in the UK suggest about 1% of cats and two to nine percent of dogs carry the MRSA bug. It has been found in horses as well.

The scientists used samples of MRSA taken from four cats and 42 dogs. The animal samples were compared to human ones collected globally.

It was found that the animal strain formed part of the same family as found in the human strain of MRSA which is found in hospitals.

A senior lecturer in preventative veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge, Dr Mark Holmes, said the study indicated that pets and humans are at risk of swopping and sharing MRSA.

The risk factors for animals include human carrier contact and veterinary clinics. However, healthy pets were not likely to pick it up from their owners. Dr Holmes stated that pet owners should not be concerned about their health as the symptoms of MRSA were uncommon in pets. He said MRSA infection in dogs and cats was extremely rare.

A consultant clinical scientist at Public Health England, Professor Alan Johnson, stated that the research confirmed data previously released about the risk of MRSA sharing between pets and humans.

He stated that the authors of the research may say that animals are reservoirs for human infection, the opposite may be true where humans are able to pass MRSA to their pets.

He added that further research is required to determine the exact manner of pet-to-human against human-to-pet transmission.

Image Credit: Egidio Maurizio

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