Healthy dogs and cats could be passing on multidrug-resistant organisms to hospitalised owners. According to research presented at this weekend s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology Infectious Diseases in Copenhagen, humans could be transmitting these dangerous microbes to their pets. The researchers stressed that the risk of cross-infection is low.
The study of more than 2,800 hospital patients and their companion animals was carried out by Dr Carolin Hackmann of Charit University Hospital Berlin, Germany, and colleagues. She said that the sharing of multidrug-resistant organisms between companion animals and their owners is possible.
The role of pets as potential reservoirs of multidrug-resistant organisms such as MDROs bacteria that are resistant to treatment with more than one antibiotic is a growing concern worldwide. It happens when infection-causing microbes become resistant to the drug designed to kill them. Antimicrobial resistant infections caused almost 1.3 million deaths and were associated with nearly 5 million deaths around the world in 2019 according to estimates.
To find out whether cats and dogs play a role in spreading MDROs, researchers collected swabs from 2,891 patients hospitalised and from any dogs and cats that lived in their households.
Genetic testing was used to identify the species of bacteria in each sample and the presence of drug-resistant genes. Approximately 30% of hospital patients have been positive for MDROs. In those who tested MDRO-positive, the rate of dog ownership was 11% and cat ownership 9%.
More than 300 pet owners were asked to send swab samples of their pets. Of these samples, 15% of dogs and 5% of cats tested positive for at least one MDRO. In four cases, these microbes were found to be of the same species and showed the same antibiotic resistance between pets and their owners.
One of the matching pairs, according to Whole Genome sequencing, was genetically identical in a dog and its owner. The levels of sharing between hospital patients and their pets are very low, but carriers can be a source of infection for more vulnerable people in hospital, such as those with a weak immune system and the very young or old, according to Hackmann.