Infections caused by methicillin-resistant staphylococci are an increasing problem in veterinary medicine. Staphylococci are a group of bacteria that can cause various infections in many different animal species, including people. The one that gets the most attention is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). There is more information about MRSA in animals on the Worms & Germs Resources page and in our MRSA archives.
While MRSA gets most press, infections by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP) are more common in dogs. (More information about the issues with naming staphylococci (particularly MRSI vs MRSP) can be found in the post "Methicillin-resistant Staph: What’s in a name?"). These canine MRSP infections creat many frustrating and concerning situations. They can be very difficult to treat because they are resistant to a large number of antibiotics. However, with the proper testing we can usually identify an effective antibiotic to treat these infections, and the prognosis for dogs with MRSP infections is usually good, unless they have a very severe or invasive infection.
I get advice calls about management of MRSP on almost a daily basis. The first question is usually what treatment should be used. Almost inevitably, the second question is about human health concerns, because of the awareness of MRSA in people. MRSA can be transmitted from pets to people, although it probably more often goes from people to pets. MRSP can also be found in people, but it is very rarely identified as a cause of disease in humans. Someone in contact with an infected dog is probably more likely to carry MRSP in their nose, but they are unlikely to develop an MRSP infection. However "unlikely" doesn’t make it impossible.
If someone has a dog with an MRSP infection, it’s important to know that this is different than MRSA. The risks of human infection are likely much lower. Nonetheless, the last thing you want is an infection with a multidrug-resistant bacterium, so some basic measures should be employed to reduce the risks:.
- Avoid direct contact with the infected site(s). If you have to touch infected site (e.g. when applying ointment or changing a bandage), wear disposable gloves and always wash your hands well when you take the gloves off.
- Keep infected sites covered with a bandage if possible.
- Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer regularly after contact with the dog, and always after contact with the infected site (even if gloves were worn) or the dog’s nose or hind end. Remember that MRSP can be carried in the dog’s nasal passages and intestinal tract.
- Avoid contact with the dog’s stool.
- People with weakened immune systems, very young children and elderly individuals are probably at higher risk for infections, and should therefore avoid contact with infected dogs whenever possible.
- Don’t let infected dogs sleep on the bed or on other areas where people have close and frequent contact (e.g. couch).
- While the risks are low, if you have any concerns, talk to your physician.