Schedule your free consultation today.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

All fields are required



(833) 330-3663

New Data Suggests that Pets Can Carry Superbugs and Can Transfer Them to Their Human Owners

Posted in Food Safety on May 9, 2024

Shocking new data suggests that pets can carry superbugs and may transmit them to their human owners.

Research presented at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infections conference suggests that owners should isolate their sick pets to avoid catching superbugs like E. coli.

What is a Superbug?

A superbug is a colloquial name for a type of bacteria that is extremely dangerous. Generally, it means that it is resistant to antibiotics, causes more serious illness, and is difficult to treat.

Studies show that certain superbugs can infect both humans and their pets alike, allowing them to transfer illness across species boundaries.

Study Finds Pets Can Carry Superbugs

The study that revealed this startling realization was conducted by veterinary scientist from the University of Lisbon.

Samples from 60 dogs and five cats across 65 households were evaluated. Both pets and their human owners were swabbed for samples.

Results showed that the animals were often carrying the same strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as their human caregivers.

Results showed that the animals were often carrying the same strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as their human caregivers.

This is an indication that the bacteria passed between pet and owner.

Experts Recommend Isolating Sick Pets, As Sick Pets Can Carry Superbugs

Bacteria can easily be passed between pets and humans through typical interactive behaviors. Petting, touching, or kissing as well as handling feces are ways that the bacteria can be transferred from one to the other.

Experts recommend isolating sick pets and washing hands whenever handling animals.

“When your pet is unwell, consider isolating them in one room to prevent the spread of bacteria throughout the house and clean other rooms thoroughly,” said lead researcher Juliana Menezes, of the antibiotic resistance lab in the faculty of veterinary medicine at University of Lisbon.

“Recent research indicates that the transmission of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) bacteria between humans and animals, including pets, is crucial in maintaining resistance levels, challenging the traditional belief that humans are the main carriers of AMR bacteria in the community.”

This research opens the doors of other possible transmission vectors of AMR bacteria. Pets in the kitchen or on food preparation surfaces can cause more than an ick factor. It can spread potentially harmful bacteria.

“Understanding and addressing the transmission of AMR bacteria from pets to humans is essential for effectively combating antimicrobial resistance in both human and animal populations.”

Antimicrobial Resistance is a Growing Problem

Antimicrobial resistance is a scary problem that is rising to dangerously high levels in the United States and around the world.

Drug-resistant infections are responsible for more than 1.2 million deaths in the world each year. A statistic expected to rise to 10 million by 2050 if the problem can not be resolved. Right now the World Health Organization (WHO) counts antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest public health threats facing the world today.

What is Antimicrobial Resistance?

What exactly is antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance happens when the pathogens that antimicrobial medicines are aimed at killing no longer respond. As a result, these common antimicrobials designed to kill specific bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites are ineffective, making infections difficult or even impossible to treat.

This increases the risk of severe illness, further spread of disease, and potentially disability and death.

What was already a difficult problem of humans spreading antimicrobial resistance, data shows that pets can carry super bugs as well.

AMR is a naturally occurring process. Genetic changes happen over time as these pathogens are exposed to different stimuli. In most animals, evolution and genetic changes occur at a much slower rate. However, the replication rate of microbes is quite rapid. This means that genetic changes can occur quickly.

When an antimicrobial does not fully kill the pathogen, the remaining bugs likely have the characteristics, or have changed so that progeny have the characteristics, to survive future exposure to that microbe.

Overuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals, and pets contributes to this outcome.

What Can We Do to Help the Problem of Antimicrobial Resistance?

AMR is a huge problem. It is only getting more complicated. So what can we do to help the problem?

You may be surprised to hear that there are things you can do to help!

Be Sure to Administer the Entire Cycle of Antibiotics

Always make sure to complete the entire cycle of antibiotics if you are prescribed them.

Even if you feel better.

It is important to be sure the entire infection is gone to avoid contributing to antimicrobial resistance. Remaining bacteria that have experienced and survived the antibiotics may develop defense against the medication, making subsequent treatments increasingly difficult to manage.

Only Take Antibiotics If Necessary

Overuse of antimicrobials is another contributing factor for antimicrobial resistance.

Specific medications work for specific pathogens.

For example, an antibiotic will do nothing against a virus. Taking an antibiotic for a cold or flu will not treat the illness but can expose the body unnecessarily to the medicine.

Additionally, an antiviral or antibiotic will not work on a fungal infection. Only antifungal medication will do for those infections.

Unless you are in a higher risk group (such as the very young or very old or those with a compromised immune system), most of the time your body can fight off the infection without medical intervention. Unless necessary, you should not take antibiotics for minor infections.

Avoid Sharing Illness

Sharing may be caring when it comes to toys and material goods. It is not, however, caring to share your infections.

Help prevent the spread of infection by isolating yourself when you are contagious and keep up with hygiene. These measures can help prevent further spread of the illness throughout your household and beyond. Your coworkers would prefer you stay at home rather than make them sick. Hopefully.

Stay in Touch with Make Food Safe!

If you’d like to know more about food safety topics in the news, like New Data Suggests that Pets Can Carry Superbugs and Can Transfer Them to Their Human Owners, check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)