COLUMBIA, Mo. The next time you have difficulty fighting a bacterial infection, your next trip to the doctor might be to the family veterinarian. A new University of Missouri-Columbia study is investigating whether the family pet could be a reservoir for infections of multi-resistant bacteria in humans.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a growing problem in the medical profession as doctors are prescribing second and third choice medicines when common antibiotics dont work. In many cases, these other medicines might be less effective or cause more side effects. One particular type of bacterium, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can be fatal in humans, is the focus of a new research project led by MU veterinarians Stephanie Kottler, Leah Cohn and John Middleton.
We used to think of these antibiotic-resistant infections as a healthcare issue that appeared in post-operative or long-term patients, said Kottler, a resident at the MU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. However, we have been seeing more of these infections that have been acquired throughout the general population, or community acquired infections. Its important to know what environmental factors might be encouraging or prolonging these infections.
MRSA bacteria can live in the noses or on the skin of humans and animals where it might not produce any symptoms. The bacteria become dangerous when they enter the tissue through a cut or puncture, producing a serious infection. In some cases, the bacteria can cause life-threatening problems, such as bloodstream infections or pneumonia. While the infections are most often found in patients after hospitalization, there is an increasing occurrence of community-acquired infections among prison populations, sports teams, military personnel and the general public. Kottler believes that pets might be an important factor behind the increase in community-acquired infections.