When it comes to methicillin-resistant staphylococci in pets, MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus) gets most of the attention. That’s fair since it’s emerging as an important health problem, and can be transmitted between pets and people. Now another staph, MRSP (methicillin-resistant S. pseudintermedius) is getting more attention, and it’s actually a more common cause of infections in dogs and cats compared to MRSA. There are also some other methicillin-resistant staph that get much less attention. One is methicillin-resistant S. scheliferi (MRSS).
There are actually two different subspecies of this bacterium, S. schleiferi subsp. coagulans and S. schleiferi subsp. schleiferi. Staphylococcus schlieferi subsp. coagulans is the coagulase-positive subspecies. (Coagulase testing is one of the main ways staph species are classified.) Sta[hylocccus schleiferi subsp. schleiferi is coagulase-negative. In general, coagulase-negative staph are considered to be minor concerns and rare causes of disease other than in sick, compromised individuals in hospitals. However, it looks like S. schleiferi subsp. schleiferi is an exception to that rule, as it is able to cause disease in otherwise healthy dogs and cats.
Both S. schleiferi subtypes predominantly cause skin and ear infections. As with other staph, methicillin-resistance is a concern and is increasing. Methicillin-resistant S. schleiferi (MRSS) rates appear to be increasing, which is a concern because methicillin-resistant staph infections are harder to treat due to their resistance to many antibiotics.
One factor that limits our knowledge of the role of MRSS (and really, S. schleiferi in general) in disease is the fact that many, if not most, diagnostic laboratories don’t try to differentiate it from S. pseudintermedius because the two species are very similar. (Sometimes, labs don’t even try to differentiate any of the coagulase positive staph, including S. aureus).
While MRSA in pets is a public health concern, there is probably much less to fear from MRSS. Staphylococcus schleiferi infections in people are quite rare and there is currently no indication that pets are an important source of human infection. However, given our limited knowledge of this bacterium, it’s wise to take some degree of precaution around animals with MRSS infections, particularly basic measures such as avoiding direct and indirect contact with infected sites, and good handwashing habits. These are the same general recommendations for pets with MRSP, and more details about this are available on the Worms & Germs Resources page.