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Researchers warn of bite-related infections

Doctors treating people for dog and cat bites should be aware of an increasing risk of MRSA — Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — being transmitted from pets to humans, newly published research says.

MRSA, an uncommon strain of the bacteria in domestic animals, is being seen more often, according to research reported in the new issue The Lancet that focuses on infectious diseases.

“As community-acquired strains of MRSA increase in prevalence, a growing body of clinical evidence has documented MRSA colonisation in domestic animals, often implying direct infection from their human owners,” reports a team led by Dr Richard Oehler, of the University of South Florida. “MRSA colonisation has been documented in companion animals such as horses, dogs, and cats and these animals have been viewed as potential reservoirs of infection.”

“Pet owners are often unaware of the potential for transmission of life-threatening pathogens from their canine and feline companions,” the researchers said. “Clinicians must continue to promote loving pet ownership, take an adequate pet history, and be aware that associated diseases are preventable via recognition, education and simple precautions.”

Each year, dog and cat bites comprise around 1% of accident and emergency visits in the US and Europe. Severe infections occur in about 20% of bite cases, and are caused by bacteria in the animal’s mouth, plus other infectious agents from the person’s skin.