Study finds dogs can transmit drug-resistant bugs to humans

Study finds dogs can transmit drug-resistant bugs to humans
Study finds dogs can transmit drug-resistant bugs to humans

Photo Credit: Mary Swift / Getty Images

From The Guardian, a new study suggests that dogs, among other pets, can transmit drug-resistant microbes to humans. 

Soon, researchers are planning to present their findings at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases in Copenhagen. Globally, zoonotic disease transmission is garnering attention, especially in the wake of COVID-19. According to the CDC, “ 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals.” Additionally, scientists estimate that 3 out of every 4 new infectious diseases are borne by animals.

Including over 2,800 patients, the study hails from the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, Germany. According to Dr. Carolin Hackmann, the study’s lead author said multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO) transmission between dogs and humans is possible.

 “However,” she continued, “we identified only a handful of cases suggesting that…dog ownership is an important risk factor for multidrug-resistant organism colonization in hospital patients.”

How did the study measure drug-resistant microbe transmission?

According to SciTechDaily, researchers focused on four specific MDR microbes with impossible names such as “ methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)”. From June 2019 and September 2022, researchers collected nasal and rectal swabs from over 2,000 patients “and from any dogs and cats that lived in their households.”

Afterward, scientists used genetic sequencing to identify the bacteria and note any drug-resistance genes. Additionally, researchers also surveyed subjects about exposure to any MDRO risk factors. Some of these include antibiotic use, recent hospital visits, as well as the number of pets at home and their general health.

Overall, only 30% of samples tested positive for MDROs. Of those, 11 percent owned dogs, and 9 percent owned cats. Notably, all the pet-owning subjects were asked to provide stool and throat swab samples of their pets. Of those, 15 percent of dogs were MDRO-positive, and only 5 percent of cats. Amazingly, only four MDRO-positive pets had phenotypically matching samples with their owners.

Dogs aren’t a major disease vector, but the risk remains

In a previous study, Dr. Hackmann and team explained that their results require careful interpretation. Specifically, sample size limitations and different quantitative methods can affect how data is perceived. Additionally, the study only represents MDRO infections in urban areas and doesn’t consider high-risk rural environments like livestock farms.

In an article from UPI, Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y. said the study confirmed what he believes. “ “For years, people have implicated dogs and cats as carriers of MRSA and group A strep… It can happen, but it happens rarely.” Pointedly, Dr. Farber says while animals are a high-risk vector for disease, the same doesn’t hold for household pets.

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