Could a Dog Bite Lead to an Antibiotic-Resistant Infection?

Antibiotic-resistant infections are no longer just found in hospital patients. These infections are increasing in the general population. According to the Center for Disease Control, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection rates have risen from 2% of all staph infections in the 1970s to 63% in 2003. Environmental factors seem to contribute to the increase in infections and pets may be to blame.

Pets, even people, have MRSA and other resistant bacteria in their noses or on their skin. As long as the bacteria stay in those places, they may not cause symptoms of an infection. Once the bacteria they enter the body through a cut or bite, they can become dangerous. There is a report describing a case of a pet dog that was treated with multiple courses of antibiotics for a chronic illness that then transmitted multidrug-resistant bacteria to a human through a bite.

MRSA infections and companion animals are the focus of study by veterinarians at the University of Missouri. The team is taking samples from 750–800 pairs of owners and pets and sorting them into three groups: human healthcare workers and pets, veterinary healthcare workers and pets, and non-healthcare professionals and pets.

This study will help us evaluate the various risk factors associated with this problem,” said Middleton, an associate professor of food animal internal medicine. “Are pets a risk factor? This study will help us track where the disease started and determine what questions the physician should be asking if a patient is diagnosed with MRSA.”

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