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Pets Could be Reservoirs of Multi-Resistant Bacteria

The family pet could be a risk factor for infections of multi-resistant bacteria in humans, posits an upcoming study by University of Missouri-Columbia researchers.

These infections, which are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), was once confined to hospital and post-operative patients. However, rates have been increasing dramatically and impacting other populations, including the military, sports teams, prison populations, and the general public.

MRSA rates, for instance, made up just 2 percent of the total staphylococcal infections in 1974. By 1995, it had jumped to 22 percent, and in 2004 to 63 percent.

Researchers are now looking for environmental factors that could be contributing to the increase in MRSA bacteria, which live in the noses and on the skin of humans and animals.

Though MRSA can exist and not produce symptoms, if the bacteria enter your tissue through a cut or puncture, a serious, sometimes life threatening, infection can occur.

The study will examine whether family pets could be acting as “reservoirs” of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and thusly contributing to the increase of these infections among the general population.

Eurekalert July 31, 2007

Dr. Mercola's Comments:
The results of this study are still being analyzed, but whether or not it turns out that pets carry and transmit MRSA, it’s not fair to point fingers at our furry friends as the root of the problem.

The fact that antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections are plaguing increasing numbers of people is directly the result of a rampant misuse of antibiotics. I believe that well over 95 percent of the time, antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily.

In recent years, doctors have cut their use of antibiotics, but they are still widely overused. And there are other factors to consider.

About 70 percent of antibiotics produced in the United States each year are fed to livestock. As a result, not only is it now possible to be exposed to antibiotics just from eating conventionally raised meats, but the antibiotics present in the animals’ manure, which is then used to fertilize crops, are now showing up in produce!

Meanwhile, your pets are no more immune to all of this than you are; they, too, are beginning to show resistance to antibiotics. They will also be far less likely to develop infections if you feed them raw food.

When it comes to including a pet in your life, you have far more to gain than to lose, as having a furry friend has been shown to add years of happiness to your life.

That said, it IS possible to contract an infection from your pet, particularly if your immune system is not functioning at its optimal level due to illness, a poor diet, or emotional stress.

You can easily protect yourself from contracting an infection from your pet by revving up your immune system with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and following an overall healthy lifestyle. Similarly, keeping your pet healthy (using the same principles) will also help it to stay free of illness.

Finally, using some commonsense hygiene practices, like washing your hands (using simple soap and water) after playing with your pet and keeping your pet clean, will give you even more protection.