The latest edition of the journal Orbit (a journal dealing with eyes, not planets) describes an uncommon infection linked to a pet dog. The article (Zuberbuhler et al 2012) outlines ‘acute unilateral dacryocystitis‘ in a 23-month-old girl (translation: .acute=sudden, unilateral=one side, dacryocystitis=inflammation of the nasolacrimal system, which is made up of a small sac and duct that runs from the eye to the nose).
In this case, the child had been playing in a gated children’s area in a city park. At one point, she rubbed her eye after touching the ground, and shortly after the parent noted that the area around her eye had dog feces on it (not sure how they confirmed it was dog feces, but it’s a logical guess). Two days later, she was taken to an emergency room because of severe swelling around the eye. A culture from the eye detected Pantoea, a bacterium that can be found in the intestinal tract of many different animal species (including people). It is a rare cause of disease but can cause infections when given the chance (such as being rubbed into an eye, or a wound, or other compromised sites).
While the bug and the infection may be a bit unusual, it’s far from surprising to find an infection caused by fecal contamination. It reemphasizes the importance of basic hygiene measures such as hand washing (especially when feces are involved) and supervision of children, along with responsible pet ownership to prevent fecal contamination (i.e. picking up after your dog), particularly in enclosed children’s playgrounds.