Cats and dogs may pass antibiotic-resistant bacteria to their owners

April 06, 2022

1 min read

Menezes J, et al. Abstract 01375. Presented at: European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases; April 23-26, 2022; Lisbon, Portugal.

The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

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Cats and dogs could be passing antibiotic-resistant bacteria and resistance genes to their owners, according to study findings that will be presented this month at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

“The idea for this work came from my supervisor, professor Constança Pomba, DVM, MSc, PhD, who was leading an international research project, the Pet-Risk consortium, where we collected samples from companion animals ⎼⎼ namely dogs and cats ⎼⎼ and their owners in Portugal and in the United Kingdom to search for the possible sharing of bacteria resistant to third generation cephalosporins within the household members,” Juliana Menezes, a PhD student at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, told Healio.

Photo of a dog licking a woman's face

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and resistance genes could be spread between healthy companion animals and their owners, researchers said. Source: Adobe Stock.

Juliana Menezes

Between 2018 and 2020, the researchers collected stool samples from 58 healthy people and their 18 cats and 40 dogs in 41 households in Portugal, and from 56 healthy people and their 45 dogs in 42 households in the U.K. They only recruited animals and owners who had not experienced bacterial infections or taken antibiotics in the 3 months prior to the start of the study.

They collected samples at monthly intervals for 4 months and used genetic sequencing to identify the species of bacteria in each sample and the presence of drug-resistant genes.

Of the 83 total households, testing turned up evidence of the sharing of cephalosporin-resistant Escherichia coli in just two households in Portugal — a rate of 2.4%.

The observational study could not prove that contact with the pets caused the humans to be colonized with resistant bacteria, only that it was possible.

“The percentage of sharing was very low, but still demonstrates the importance of [the] pet-human unit in the dissemination of bacteria resistant to critically important antimicrobial for human medicine in the community setting,” Menezes said.

Additionally, the study detected extended spectrum beta-lactamase and plasmid-mediated AmpC (ESBL/pAMPc)-producing Enterobacterales (ESBL-E) in companion animals and humans from both countries.

Overall, 15 pets (14.6%) and 15 humans (13.2%) had ESBL-E. Among them, the researchers found a multidrug-resistant profile in seven pets (46.7%) and five humans (33.3%).

“Our results emphasize the need for continuous local surveillance programs for this type of resistance, mainly in companion animals, where we do not have much data,” Menezes said.

Both antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes transmitted between healthy dogs and cats and their owners, finds study in UK and Portugal. Published April 5, 2022. Accessed April 5, 2022.
Menezes J, et al. Abstract 01375. Presented at: European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases; April 23-26, 2022; Lisbon, Portugal.