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Both antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes that are passed between healthy dogs and cats and their owners

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Escherichia coli. Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

Healthy dogs and cats could transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as well as genes that play a key role in bacterial resistance, to their owners, according to new research to be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in this year. in Lisbon, Portugal (April 23-26). The study is conducted by Dr Juliana Menezes of the University of Lisbon in Portugal and Dr Sian Frosini of the Royal Veterinary College, UK, and colleagues.

“Our findings verify not only the exchange of antibiotic-resistant bacteria but also of resistance genes between companion animals and their owners in the community, underscoring the need for ongoing local surveillance programs to identify potential risk to human health,” says Dr. Menezes of the University of Lisbon.

The role of companion animals as potential reservoirs of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria is a growing concern throughout the world. Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are common in the intestines of healthy people and animals. There are several different types, and while most are harmless, some can cause serious food poisoning and life-threatening infections, including blood poisoning, with over 40,000 cases each year in England alone.

Particularly important are infections caused by highly resistant strains with ESBLs and AmpC producers. enterobacteria (AmpC-E) and carbapenemases Enterobacterales (CPE), which are resistant to multiple antibiotics, including penicillin and cephalosporins.

In this study, the researchers wanted to find out how these resistant bacteria spread and whether interbreeding exists between healthy companion animals (ie cats and dogs) and their owners.

The health of the companion animals was assessed by their veterinarian when they attended the University of Lisbon Small Animal Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Royal Veterinary College Small Animal Veterinary Referral Service at the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom. Only animals and their owners that had not experienced bacterial infections or taken antibiotics in the 3 months prior to the start of the study were recruited.

Faeces samples were collected from 58 healthy people and the 18 cats and 40 dogs living with them from 41 households in Portugal, and from 56 healthy people and 45 dogs from 42 households in the UK.

Samples were collected at monthly intervals for four months and genetic sequencing was used to identify both the species of bacteria in each sample and the presence of drug resistance genes.

The researchers used Rep-PCR, a fast and easy-to-use molecular fingerprinting technique that helps identify related strains of bacteria. Because it is not as sensitive as whole genome sequencing, they also sequenced the strains to confirm possible exchange of resistant bacteria.

Between 2018 and 2020, 15 of 103 (15%; 1 cat and 14 dogs) pets and 15 of 114 (13%) household members in both countries were found to carry ESBL/AmpC-producing bacteria. Of these, nearly half of the dogs and cats (6 in Portugal and 1 in the UK), and a third of the household members (4 in Portugal and 1 in the UK), were colonized with at least one strain. multidrug-resistant (see table 1 in notes to editors).

No carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales or Acinetobacter spp were detected in any of the samples.

In four Portuguese households, the ESBL/pAMPc resistance genes found in pets matched those found in their owners’ stool samples. In three of these households, matching resistance genes were only recovered at one time point (see Figure 2 in notes to editors), but in one household, shared strains were observed at two consecutive time points, which suggests a persistent colonization of shared bacteria.

In addition, in two of the homes, the microbes on the pets matched E. coli strains found in his owner’s stool sample, but in the other two, there was no evidence that the bacteria shared (see figure 3 in notes to editors).

“Sometimes the bacteria may not share each other, but they do share their resistance genes,” explains Dr. Menezes. “These genes are located on mobile fragments of DNA, which means they can be transferred between different bacterial populations in animals and humans.”

She continues: “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, antibiotic resistance was one of the biggest threats to public health because it can make diseases like pneumonia, sepsis, urinary tract infections and wounds more dangerous. Although the level of household sharing that we have studied is low, healthy carriers can shed bacteria in their environment for months, and can be a source of infection for other more vulnerable people and animals, such as the elderly and pregnant women “Our findings reinforce the need for people to practice good hygiene around their pets and reduce the use of unnecessary antibiotics in companion animals and people.”

This is an observational study and cannot prove that close contact with pets causes colonization with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but only suggests the possibility of such an effect. The authors note several limitations, including that it involved a small number of families and limited longitudinal follow-up.


Resistance to antibiotics of last resort may be passing between dogs and their owners


Provided by the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

Citation: Both antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes transmitted between healthy dogs and cats and their owners (April 6, 2022) Retrieved April 6, 2022 at https://phys.org/news/2022-04-antibiotic -resistant-bacteria-genes-transmitted .html

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