Our question this week was:
Dr. Debra – I heard about this Methicillin-resistant Stapholoccus aureus (MRSA) in the news. Can pets get it?
Sarah M. – Dover, MD
Hi – thanks for your email. Methicillin-resistant Stapholoccus aureus (MRSA – pronounced "Mersa") is a common nosocomial organism that gained press due to its virulence in infecting humans. The term "nosocomial" is commonly used in the press and means that it "originated in the hospital". Some people refer to it as a superbug.
Infection from this organism is important due to it potency and antibiotic resistance. It has been reported in humans, dogs, cats, horses, birds, cattle and pigs. Pets at highest risk are those that are debilitated and immunosuppresed.
Basically it comes down to this. MRSA can be commonly carried on the skin healthy people and is not a problem to them unless they something changes that allows them to develop an infection from the organism.
MRSA it is a pathogen that has resistance to multiple antibiotic drugs, including methicillin. The bacteria also has a gene called medA gene that basically makes it resistant to commonly used antibiotics in the penicillin and cephalosporin drug class.
In 2007, more people died from MRSA than from the human AIDS virus. It is predicted that over 90,000 Americans are infected each year with MRSA.
This organism is particularly worrisome as hospitalized patients go to the hospital for one problem and can acquire a secondary infection with a MRSA organism. The fact that many of the hospitalized patients are very sick and the fact that this bacteria is resistant to common antibiotics makes it difficult to treat.
A study done at the Ontario Veterinary College Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in November of 2007. In this study, ten patients in the ICU were swabbed and cultured for the presence of MRSA and it was found that 6 of 26 patients cultured were positive for exposure to MRSA (26%).
Infection can cause a variety of lesions in dogs and cats.
It is possible that MRSA may be transmitted between humans and pets. The exact nature of this is still being determined. It has been increasingly recognized in pets, maybe due to increased testing.
You can help prevent the infection by maintaining good hand washing techniques, keep any wound covered, keep your personal items personal (don't share towel, soap, razors, clothes, etc). It can be treated with antibiotics.
Here is a video that talks about MRSA
That gives you a little information about what it is and what it is not. It also has some photos of MRSA wounds in humans.
CNN Report on MRSA
here is a CNN report on MRSA that is very good.
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