Superbugs now taking out pets as antibiotic resistance continues to spread
10/07/2017 // Russel Davis // Views

Veterinary experts have recently cautioned that infections associated with antibiotic-resistant superbugs have shown a significant increase among pets across the U.S. According to experts, veterinary clinics across the country have seen a significant increase in infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSA) as well as persistent strains of E.coli, and salmonella.

Reports have shown that clinics are now attending to an average of at least one case of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius per day. The infection is known to colonize the skin of dogs and cats, the experts have explained. Likewise, a growing number of Pseudomonas ear infections, antibiotic-resistant E. coli species and salmonella have started to sound the alarm among veterinary clinics. These pathogens are commonly found in the animals' gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. Experts have stressed that the recent dilemma on superbug invasion among pets might be stemming from antibiotic misuse.

"Some of these bacteria may be causing infection in the animals, while others may just be present with no problems noted. I think a big problem is people giving antibiotics to animals when it’s not indicated, or when it’s not necessary. If your patient is going into surgery and there’s a huge risk, then it’s prudent to give antibiotics. But in other circumstances, it’s better not to," veterinary dermatologist Dr. Jason Pieper has told Daily Mail online.

According to Dr. Pieper, some veterinarians who prescribe antibiotics deemed too strong may have been contributing to the current problem. The expert has also stressed that while the prospect of bacterial transmission from pets to humans remains possible, the chances would be feasibly low. People with weaker immune system face an increased risk transmission, the veterinary dermatologist has stated. The expert has also stressed on the success of regulating superbug infections among humans and noted that the veterinary community should take key pointers from the recent successes.


"We have decreased the incidence of methicillin bacterial infections in people largely by using antibiotics more responsibly. I remember a time when I would always be prescribed antibiotics for the flu. Now, physicians are not prescribing antibiotics for viral infections, which don’t respond to antibiotics. I feel the veterinary community needs to take a lesson from this and also start practicing the responsible use of antibiotics," Dr. Pieper adds.

Likewise, Dr. Pieper has urged pet owners to question veterinarians whenever they dispense antibiotic prescriptions without first confirming the presence of a bacterial infection.

Studies look at cases of animal-human transmission of superbugs

The recent findings coincide with a report compiled by the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. The report released in August 2016 has cited a case study where a pet shop worker, as well as four dogs and two cats in the shop, have been found to be infected with an E.coli strain that contained the mcr-1 gene. According to the report, the gene molecule possesses strong antibiotic resistance against the drug colistin.

"These findings suggest that mcr-1–producing E. coli can colonize companion animals and be transferred between companion animals and humans. The findings also suggest that, in addition to food animals and humans, companion animals can serve as a reservoir of colistin-resistant E. coli," a university release reads.

The report also cited a 2014 study demonstrating that humans and pets such as cats and dogs may readily exchange and share isolates of a strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Likewise, the report stressed on the findings of a 2009 study indicating that households with pets are more likely to contain MRSA bacteria. (Related: Animals will consume more antibiotics than humans in 2017, as superbug bacteria become increasing public threat.)

The researchers have examined household surfaces of 35 randomly selected houses to carry out the study. The findings have revealed that MRSA has been detected in more than half of the households. The study has also shown that houses with pet cats are eight times more likely to contain MRSA than those without.

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