Pets in a British animal hospital have been found to be harbouring potentially lethal drug-resistant bugs that could be transferred to owners.

Tests by Public Health England (PHE) revealed three cats a dog were colonised by bacteria able to fend off Linezolid, a “last-resort” antibiotic used to treat superbugs such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

No staff or owners are known to have been taken ill as a result, however the agency last night warned veterinary surgeries to enforce proper cleaning practices after this first discovery of its kind.

Experts said it implies that resistance to one of a shrinking number of last-resort antibiotics can spread between different bacterial populations in animals and humans.

Dr Katie Hopkins, from PHE, who led the research, said: “This is concerning as transmission of this organism to owners carries the potential for spread to other bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus.

“This may lead to difficult-to-treat infections. In order to minimise transmission of resistant bacteria between companion animals and people, veterinary surgeries need to ensure adequate cleaning takes place and pet owners should wash their hands after handling pets.”

The gene that enables bacterial resistance to linezolid is known as optrA.

Dr Hopkins said it was thought to be the first time optrA-positive enterococci had been identified in pets in the UK.

As part of routine testing for antibiotic resistance, the swab samples had been referred to a specialist Public Health England laboratory.

Besides all four isolates testing positive for optrA, there were indications of animal-to-animal transmission.

However, thanks to prompt cleaning and decontamination, there was no evidence of any human picking up an infection from the pets, said Dr Hopkins.

She added: “Our findings further the ‘One-Health’ view that antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be shared by animals and humans, although the direction of transfer is often difficult to prove.

“We currently do not know the prevalence of linezolid-resistant enterococci in companion animals and therefore a joint approach to monitoring emergence and dissemination of resistance mechanisms of public health importance is needed.”

The research is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) meeting in Amsterdam.

It follows a study indicating that petting zoos are becoming a breeding ground for drug-resistant bugs, with parents warned their children could be at risk of hard-to-treat E. coli.

Antimicrobial resistance is listed by the World Health Organisation as one of the top ten gravest threats to human health.

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Source:: Daily times

      

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Drug-resistant bugs discovered in animal hospital prompts health warning

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