Staph Infections From Your Furry Friend

1 decade 7 months 3 weeks ago Monday, November 19 2007 Nov 19, 2007 Monday, November 19, 2007 2:04:43 AM CST November 19, 2007 in News

How often does your dog smother you with "kisses"? It is also common to hear a dog lover quote "a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's." But a current MU-conducted study is looking into the question of whether you and your canine could be passing a nasty bacteria back and forth and making it stronger.

There's a tough little bacteria out there, it's got a big name, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. It can stand up to the best of the antibiotics the medical world has to offer.

Dr. Stephanie Kottler, a veterinarian, is one of the researchers at MU.

"What we're doing is looking at the prevalence of the bacteria in healthy people and their pets," Kottler said. "We're doing three different populations; human health care, veterinary health care and the general population."

The consensus used to be the antibiotic-resistant staph was really only a problem in medical settings.

"We thought it was a problem in nursing homes or hospital settings or places where people are very sick or very debilitated, "said Dr. Leah Cohn, another veterinarian. "Only in the last five to ten years have we found out there are a number of resistant staphs that come from the greater community. These staphs come from people who are in crowded situations such as sports teams, prisons or dorms."

Now it's popping up all over the place, including on your best furry friend.

"They can have problems with clearing the infection because they pass the bug to an animal in the house and the animal can pass that back to the human and make treatment more difficult," Kottler said.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria is a real problem in the medical and veterinary fields, bad bugs are getting stronger and tried and true antibiotics aren't getting the job done anymore.

"If you take any situation where you've got a population of bacteria and you expose it to an antibiotic, you're going to have survival of the fittest, something that emerges that resists that," said Dr. John Middleton, another veterinarian.

"What you don't want to do is throw on an antibiotic that works half way or part way, or give what's left of a dose that was for another infection, that's the way you get resistance. You only wound the bacteria, you don't kill them, and what doesn't kill them, makes them stronger," Cohn said.

All three veterinarians agree, whether it's for a dog or a person, taking the time to make sure whatever is ailing you actually will be helped by an antibiotic is the key. That often requires culturing which take more time and money, but will let you know for sure and guard against promoting more resistant germs.

Kottler is still looking for volunteers and their dogs to be part of the study.

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