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MRSA in Cats in Animal-Assisted Therapy Programs

Coughlan K, Olsen KE, Boxrud D, et al. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in resident animals of a long-term care facility. Zoonoses and Public Health 2010;57:220-226.

Many hospitals and long-term care facilities allow visitation by pets or animal-assisted therapy programs for benefit to the elderly or chronically ill patients. Concern exists regarding transmission of infectious agents between pets and patients. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), can lead to life-threatening illness, but little is known about potential carriage of these bacteria in animals at long-term care facilities. The investigators collected nasal swab samples from 12 animals (one dog, 11 cats) weekly for eight weeks at a facility, and characterized the S. aureus isolates for antibiotic resistance. They found two of the 11 cats were colonized with MRSA (one cat in 5/8 samples, the other in 2/8 samples). All isolates were health care-associated strains. They concluded that animals at these facilities may acquire MRSA from patients, as human cases on the floors visited by these cats had occurred. It is believed that carriage of MRSA by animals is transient, thus these cats will likely clear the bacteria. While this study presents only a brief snapshot at one facility, these findings demonstrate the need for good hand hygiene, as well as for monitoring resident animals at these facilities. The benefits of human-animal interactions at these facilities far outweighs the potential risks, but guidelines should be in place at these facilities to minimize the risk for patients and staff. [MK]

Related articles:
Soares Magalhaes RJ, Loeffler A, Lindsay J, et al. Risk factors for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureau (MRSA) infection in dogs and cats: a case-control study. Vet Res 2010;41:55.