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Humans, pet animals harbour same MRSA infections: Study

Posted on May 13 2014 | IANS

London, May 13 : Cats and dogs at home can also get infected with MRSA bacteria - a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics - that is genetically similar to the type of MRSA that occurs in humans, an alarming study has revealed.

A shared population of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria circulates both in humans and companion animals.

"Humans and pet animals readily exchange and share MRSA bacteria from the same population," warned Mark Holmes, a senior lecturer in preventive veterinary medicine at University of Cambridge.

MRSA naturally lives on the skin and also causes difficult-to-treat infections in humans and animals.

Holmes, however, said pet owners do not need to worry.

"MRSA infection in cats and dogs is still extremely rare. There is very little risk of owners getting ill from their pets," he added.

In addition, healthy pets are not likely to pick up MRSA from their human companions but if a pet already is ill or its health is severely compromised, MRSA patients should inform their pets' veterinarians.

Holmes and colleagues sequenced the genomes of 46 MRSA samples from cats and dogs.

The samples were found to be similar to those associated with MRSA strains in humans, with most coming from wound infections or skin and soft tissue infections, the study noted.

Nearly all samples were genetically similar to human bacteria, and their place in the family tree showed that the companion animal bacteria most likely originated in humans.

It's a reminder that constant vigilance and high levels of hygiene are just as important when treating cats and dogs as with humans, Holmes noted in a paper published in the journal mBio.

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