A couple of recent outbreak reports are interesting, though unsurprising, and they help raise awareness about some important issues.  Here’s the first one.

The CDC recently released an update on the ongoing investigation into antibiotic-resistant Campylobacter infections from puppies. Contact with puppies (and kittens) has been shown to be a risk  factor for people developing campylobacteriosis, a bacterial intestinal infection.  Campylobacter is most often associated with poultry but can be shed in the feces of numerous species, including dogs and cats. When you combine the general increased risk of pathogen shedding in young animals, the higher rates of shedding in commercially produced animals (e.g. from puppy mills), rampant antibiotic use in commercial breeding operations, and the close contact that people have with new puppies (and their feces, particularly during the house training period), it’s a great recipe for infection with Campylobacter, particularly antibiotic resistant strains.

The ongoing US outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni infections in people has now reached 30 confirmed cases, presumably with many other undiagnosed cases (see graph below).

  • Affected people have come from 13 US states (see map below).
  • Four people have been hospitalized as a result of the infection.
  • Campylobacter isolates have been resistant to a variety of antibiotics, including those that are commonly used to treat severe infections.

Petland pet stores have been implicated as a /the source.  Twenty-four affected people were interviewed, and 21 had had contact with a puppy in the week before they got sick, and 16 of those had contact with a puppy from a pet store. Of those, 80% were people who had a puppy from a Petland store or that worked at Petland.

Laboratory evidence indicates that bacteria from ill people in this outbreak are closely related genetically to bacteria from ill people in the 2016–2018 outbreak of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections linked to pet store puppies, which was also linked to Petland.

A single source of puppies hasn’t yet been identified. Presumably they are focusing on commercial puppy suppliers but stores likely get puppies from a variety of sources, making the investigation a challenge.

A few take-home messages:

  • Don’t be afraid of puppies. They’re biohazardous but also a lot of fun. There’s always risk in life and the disease risk associated with puppies can be reduced with some common sense precautions.
  • Campylobacter is one of many “don’t eat poop” diseases. The bacterium has to go from the puppy’s intestinal tract to a person’s mouth for someone to get infected. There are lots of ways to reduce this risk, such as hand washing, picking up feces promptly and good house training.
  • While you shouldn’t be afraid, you should be aware. So should your physician. If you get sick after having obtained a new puppy, make sure your healthcare provider knows that you have a puppy.

More information about reducing the risks associated with puppies, and about Campylobacter, can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.