Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-resistant S. pseudintermedius (MRSP) get a lot of media attention because of the ever increasing numbers of infections in dogs and cats, and concerns about transmission to people. However, there are many other methicllin-resistant staph of varying relevances. One is an interesting related bug called Staphylococcus schleiferi.
There are actually two types of S. schleiferi:
- S. schleiferi schleiferi: This is a coagulase-negative subspecies that occasionally causes skin and ear infections in dogs (and uncommonly cats). It can also be found in healthy animals. There are a few reports of infections in people, mainly surgical site and wound infections in individuals who are at high risk of infection because of hospitalization, surgery or other factors.
- S. schleiferi coagulans: This is a coagulase-positive subspecies that may be more common in dogs and cats than S. schleiferi schleiferi, causing skin and ear infections and also being found in healthy animals. Human infections are very rare.
Currently, there is little to no evidence the animals are a source of human infection with S. schleferi and human infections appear to be very uncommon. However, this is an area that hasn’t been studied much so it’s hard to say with any confidence that there is no risk. My assumption is that the risk is very low, but not zero, so while we shouldn’t be paranoid, it makes sense to use some very basic infection control practices when dealing with infected animals to reduce any possible risk. These would include:
- avoiding contact with infected sites
- if contact with infected sites is necessary (e.g. cleaning or treating infected ears), gloves should be worn and hands washed after glove removal
- hands should be washed thoroughly after any contact with the infected site, and regularly after contact with the animal
Quarantine of infected animals in households isn’t necessary, because of the limited evidence of transmission and because healthy dogs and cats can also carry this bacterium. In veterinary clinics, isolation of infected animals is reasonable because other animals in the clinic may be at higher risk of developing infections should they become exposed.