Guess who else has MRSA

We have just learned that our cats and dogs can get MRSA. And they get it not just from other animals but from you, their owner; and, should your pet contract MRSA from somewhere out there, it can then be passed on to you.

And it’s not just cats and dogs, it’s all “companion animals:” your pet rabbit, parrot, and turtle; horses and, um, your bats (bats?).

So says a study out of Cambridge University in England published this week. Researchers gathered MRSA samples from animals in veterinary hospitals throughout the United Kingdom over a 4 year period and compared them to human cases of MRSA.

Two other findings from the study are interesting because they also show similarity between us and our pets.

Even though there are hundreds of strains of MRSA in the environment, each veterinary hospital the researchers drew samples from had its own unique strain, “suggesting that as in human hospitals, MRSA can be readily transmitted in veterinary hospital settings.” And, “It’s a reminder that constant vigilance and high levels of hygiene are just as important when treating cats and dogs as with humans.” Thus proving once again that the hospital – whether human or animal – is an inherently dangerous place.

Second, just as with humans, the study says that it’s the vulnerable who are at risk. Healthy pets are not likely to become infected with MRSA from their human companions unless their health is already compromised. Conversely, vulnerable humans – the elderly, infants, or someone who is ill – are more at risk from becoming infected from a pet carrying MRSA.

One more thing. MRSA has traditionally been associated with hospitals, and now with this Cambridge study, veterinary hospitals. But U.S. research published last month makes it abundantly clear that MRSA should no longer be thought of as just a hospital-bound phenomenon – simply put, it has also taken root in our homes. Specifically, the researchers found that MRSA had become “endemic,” i.e. regularly found, in private homes, and that the home plays a critical role as “reservoirs for transmission and diversification.”

So as it turns out we share more than just the house with our cats and dogs, we also share each other’s germs; in this case, MRSA. It’s what we have suspected all along: they are part of the family.

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