Family Pet Can Transmit MRSA
Our pets have always been known to carry several bacterial species that can cause serious infections with their bites. Now it has been shown that one more should be added to the list -- meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Cat and dog bites commonly contain a mix of anaerobes and aerobes. The list includes at least 30 pathogens which can be transmitted from pets to people, including species of Pasteurella, Streptococcus, Fusobacterium, and Capnocytophaga. Infections from these pathogens can result in severe infections in about 20% of all dog and cat bites.
Petting or handling pets will not result in infection easily. Most transfer of infection results from bites and scratches. In 2001, more than 350,000 Americans were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal dog-bite-related injuries. Dog and cat bites in the U.S. make up approximately 1% of emergency room visits every year. Most animal bites are due to dogs (60%). another 10 – 20 % are due to cats. Healthcare cost associated with animal bites are estimated to be more than $1 billion a year.
The clinical management of MRSA infections from pets is the same as for MRSA acquired from other sources. Mild-to-moderate infections can be treated with oral antibiotics, while more serious infections will need to be treated with parenteral drugs.
Care of bites / scratches involve standard wound care. Bites are tetanus-prone wounds. Bite wounds that have a higher risk of infection include crush injuries, hand wounds, puncture wounds, wounds with extensive devitalized tissue, heavily contaminated wounds, and those with prolonged time from injury to treatment.
Bite-related and Septic Syndromes Caused by Cats and Dogs; Lancet Infect Dis 2009; 9: 439-47; Oehler RL, et al