Today (like most days) I answered questions about the potential for transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP) between people and pets. We have a long way to go before we fully understand the issues, but research continues to progress and we’re learning more and more. A recent study by Dr. Engeline van Duijkeren and colleagues from Utrecht University published in Veterinary Microbiology (van Duijkeren et al. 2011) steps up our knowledge another notch.

In their study, the authors enrolled 20 households that owned pets with MRSP infections. They went into the households and collected samples from the index pet (the one with the MRSP infection), other pets, people and the household environment.  At the time of sampling, 10 of the infected pets had gotten over their illness while the other 10 still had active infections.

Some highlights of the study:

  • 4/14 (36%) of other dogs and 4/13 (31%) other cats in the households were MRSP carriers. In households where the pet still had an active infection, an astounding 86% of the other animals were carriers. All these numbers are much higher than the expected baseline rate of MRSP carriage by healthy pets in households, giving strong support to the notion that MRSP is being passed between pets in households with an infected pet.  From an infection control standpoint, it’s probably reasonable to assume that a pet living with an infected animal is a carrier.
  • MRSP was isolated from 2/45 (4%) of nasal swabs from people. This is not too surprising, since we know that MRSP (and its susceptible counterpart, methicillin-susceptible S. pseudintermedius (MSSP)) can be transmitted between people and pets. This study shows us, however, that even when there is apparent MRSP transmission going on between pets in the household, it doesn’t seem to commonly involve people.
  • MRSP was found in the environment in 70% of houses (and 90% of household where the pet was still infected). These are pretty big numbers but are not really unexpected, since if MRSP is in and/or on animals, it’s bound to be found in the environment. Whether the environment is a potential source of human or animal infection isn’t known, but it’s something to consider.

This research gives more evidence that MRSP can be spread readily between animals but less so between animals and people. It could be because animals have closer contact with each other in a household than with people, but a bigger factor is probably that S. pseudintermedius is more adapted to living on animals than on people.