Drug Resistant Bacteria Found In Veterinary Hospitals
by Elisa Black-Taylor
MRSA photo by wellcome images (Flickr)
Good morning readers. Today's topic is drug resistant bacteria found in veterinary hospitals. I recently received an email stating E.coli was found in 90% of veterinary hospitals and clostridium difficile (a diarrhea producing bacteria which can lead to colitis) was discovered in 50%. MRSA has also been found at critical levels.
This is one article guaranteed to give the readers a harsh dose of how dangerous these bacteria are and how they are lurking where we least expect. Primarily, on the examination tables in the veterinary offices where our pets are treated.
So sit down, grab a cup of coffee and a few aspirin and prepare for a crash course in drug resistant bacteria.
I'm the first to admit I'm not a medical professional and writing this article has been a challenge. It's difficult to find good and accurate references while at the same time making the article reader friendly to those who don't have a lot of medical knowledge. Please forgive me if any of the terms I use are incorrect. Medical subjects are difficult for me to put to paper as I am an average cat lady with an addiction to writing.
Before I begin, I'd like to assure the readers this isn't an attempt to undermine the cleanliness of your veterinary hospital, but to explain the dangers too little knowledge can pose to the health of our pets and ourselves.
Nor will I attempt to go into symptoms and treatments for these drug resistant bacteria as that would take up much more room than I have on this website. My goal is to inform the readers at pictures-of-cats.org that the problem is out there and it's growing.
First let's begin with the definitions so everyone is clear as to what we're dealing with. Since E.coli and MRSA are the most dangerous, I want to limit this article to those two.
Escherichia Coli or E.coli is one of several types of bacteria that normally inhabit the intestines of humans and animals. It's description is as follows:
E. coli bacteria may give rise to infections in wounds, the urinary tract, biliary tract, and abdominal cavity (peritonitis). This organism may cause septicemia, neonatal meningitis, infantile gastroenteritis, tourist diarrhea, and hemorrhagic diarrhea. An E. coli infection may also arise due to environmental exposure. Infections with this type of bacteria pose a serious threat to public health with outbreaks arising from food and water that has been contaminated with human or animal feces or sewage. (1)
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics called beta-lactams. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in healthcare settings. Studies show 25%-30% of the population are carriers with no symptoms. (2)
Since research has showed such an alarming percentage of veterinary practices are affected, I'd like to address the vets and their staff to the personal dangers they face from these bacteria.
Many small practices don't provide an eating area for themselves and their staff, so the employees may pull up a chair and use the stainless steel exam table as a makeshift lunch table. I'd like to caution those who work in these practices that you're putting your health at risk. If you must eat your lunch under these conditions, be vigilant about sterilization using whatever cleaner has been tested and proven safe in your part of the world and use it exactly as directions on the label indicate.
MRSA is a zoologic pathogen and is easily passed from animal to human and vice-versa. Persons testing positive for MRSA should also have their pets tested so they can also be treated. There have been patients who didn't respond to treatment until their pets were diagnosed and treated also.
According to Dr. Armando Hoet, an OSU clinical assistant professor in veterinary preventative medicine who is working on the study, there have been several new strains never before seen which have shown up during the past few years. (3)
I spent several years working in the emergency room at a local trauma center. I saw MRSA cases spread by improper maintenance of a hot tub. The bacteria not only thrive, but are also hard to kill. E.coli and MRSA can both prove fatal, especially in the elderly and immune challenged.
Animals are easily infected as the bacteria can live on the ground and animals walk close to the ground and breathe the air close to the ground. They become infected and have no symptoms then leave traces of the bacteria behind when they visit their vet.
Or a cat or dog is brought in for an exam (regardless of whether or not diagnosed with MRSA) and the examination table and other surfaces aren't disinfected properly.
According to an article I found online that was written in 2010, as many as one in six vet staff are infected with MRSA. Please read the entire article at your convenience as it's a real eye opener. (4)
One thought as to why the E.coli and MRSA are showing up in higher percentages is the development of a new roller test that is similar to a Swiffer pad. The new test utilizes a roller sampler and a static wipe that gathers a better specimen for testing. (5)
Since MRSA can be spread not only through skin to skin contact, but also by breathing in dust particles containing the pathogen, it's critical that we use the most accurate testing methods available and the best disinfectants to prevent spreading. (6)
For those of you who wish to read more on the study my article was founded on, the dissertation by Eric Anthony Lutz, M.S. titled Human and Animal Exposure to Airborne Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): Laboratory Evaluations and Veterinary Hospital Pilot Study can be found at http://e-co.uk.com/airborneexposuretomrsa.pdf.
We can all do our part to make the vet experience safer for everyone. I really hope a lot of veterinarians and their staff will read this article if they're not aware of this problem already. The solution to curb E.coli and MRSA as well as other drug resistant pathogens is the same as for any business involving the medical field. Clean, disinfect, clean and disinfect some more.
We as pet owners can also help by educating ourselves in the use of antibiotics. Or should I say when NOT to use antibiotics. We've had the mentality for the past half century that antibiotics are needed for everything and this way of thinking has created serious consequences for drug resistant bacteria.
It is my sincere hope that I've presented this issue in an easy to understand format. Please pass this information along to those you think should read it. This includes your vet and friends who work in the profession. This is important, readers. We must work together to protect ourselves as well as our pets.
Comments? Has anyone dealt with drug resistant pathogens firsthand? Feel free to add what you know to the comments. As I said before, I'm not an expert in the field. I do feel it's my calling to write about anything I consider important to cats and their people and this story definitely needs to be out there.