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Drug-resistant staph could be swapped between animals and owners

By jim Published: October 6, 2009

For decades, the drug-resistant germ called MRSA was almost exclusively a concern of humans, usually in hospitals and other health care settings.

But in recent years, the germ has become a growing problem for veterinarians, with an increasing number of infections turning up in birds, cats, dogs, horses, pigs, rabbits and rodents. And that, infectious-disease experts say, is becoming a hazard to humans who own or spend time with these animals.

“What’s happened for the first time that we’ve noticed is that you’re getting flip back and forth,” said Scott Shaw, head of the infection control committee at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

It is unknown how often pets play a role in human infections by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vice versa; physicians and veterinarians do not routinely trace such infections to their source. When such scientific sleuthing is conducted, however — usually in the case of multiple or recurring infections — the results suggest a strong link.

Read the full story at the New York Times

MSNBC also has a good article on pets and MRSA.

MRSA, the drug-resistant strain, was detected in more than 5 percent of humans and about 3 percent of dogs and cats, Middleton said.

What’s not so clear is whether people got MRSA from their pets — or whether they gave it to them, researchers said. One theory is that pets may pick up the bacteria from people, but then serve as reservoirs, harboring the bugs so they can reinfect humans.

“Pets could be innocent bystanders, or they could be significant sources of infection,” Weese said. “They’re probably somewhere in between.”

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