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Beta-hemolytic streptococcal infections in multi-cat environments

Morrow BL, McNatt R, et al. Highly pathogenic beta-hemolytic streptococcal infections in cats from an institutionalized facility and a multi-species comparison. J Feline Med Surg. 2016 Apr; 18(4):318-327.

Cats living in a multicat environment, especially a concentrated one such as an institutional hoarding facility (IHF) can provide a look at disease scenarios not present in other living environments. In this study, two hundred and thirty-four cats were removed from an IHC. The cats were exhibiting severe, atypical pyogenic infections. The authors documented these various syndromes and searched for the cause of the infections.

Upon examination, abscesses were found in 142 cats, predominantly in cervical region (51 cats), paws, carpal and/or tarsal joints (82 cats). The abscesses in the cervical region (head/neck) developed spontaneously, without trauma noted in this area. Sixty-eight cats had acute rhinitis with profuse purulent nasal discharge with bacterial pneumonia found in a number of these cats. Many of the cats had septic arthritis with total joint destruction, necrotizing fasciitis, meningitis, otitis and septic shock, often resulting in death.

Based on initial culture results, the infections seemed to be caused by beta-hemolytic streptococci (BHS). Some cultures produced no growth. Further testing was performed (by PCR), Streptococcus canis was the dominant species ID’d in each sample and the only species present in all regions associated with the pyogenic infections.

While there is little information known about streptococci infections in cats, it appears that the organisms can quickly spread throughout a susceptible population (such as a multicat environment) producing severe, life-threatening infections. If such an environment exists, co-infections can occur capable of horizontal gene transmission and novel pathogens can result. In this situation, since S. zoopidemicus was found in lung tissue and S. porcinus in two abscesses from cats, there was likely an exchange of virulence factors between the pathogens.

Because there are striking similarities between streptococcal syndromes in various host species (horses, humans, cats and dogs), a particular streptococcal syndrome is not necessarily caused by the same species of BHS.  Species once considered not to be human pathogens have crossed and are emerging elsewhere. The authors believe this evidence supports a ‘one-health’ approach to understanding streptococcal diseases. (VLT)

See also:
Bruun T, Oppegaard O, et al. Etiology of cellulitis and clinical prediction of Streptococcal disease: A prospective study. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2015 Nov 25; 3(1): ofv181.