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Alarming levels of MRSA revealed in horse wounds

MRSA, magnified 20,000 times. Photo: Public Health Image Library

MRSA, magnified 20,000 times. Photo: Public Health Image Library

An alarming level of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been found in a study of horses, cats and dogs with wound infections.

Staphylococcus aureus is an important cause of wound infections in companion animals, and infections with methicillin-resistant strains are of particular concern due to limited treatment options and their potential to cross between species.

Researchers in Germany performed a survey between 2010 and 2012, checking a total of 5229 swabs taken from infected wounds in cats, dogs and horses. The samples were obtained from 1170 German veterinary practices.

The wound swabs came from 3479 dogs, 1146 cats and 604 horses.

Staphylococcus aureus was identified in 5.8 percent of the dog swabs (201 animals), 12.2 percent of the cat swabs (140 animals), and 22.8 percent of the horses (138 animals).

Further investigation of swabs in which Staphylococcus aureus was present revealed high MRSA rates. The resistant bacterium was present in 62.7 percent of the relevant dog swabs, 46.4 percent of the cat swabs and and 41.3 percent of the equine swabs.

Further genetic work identified the lineages of the MRSA strains, with the majority of equine MRSA – 87.7 percent – belonging to what is known as the CC398 lineage.

The German researchers, whose findings were reported this week in the open-access journal, PLoS ONE, said the study highlighted the importance of Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA as a cause of wound infections, particularly in cats and horses in Germany.

They said that while human-associated MRSA lineages were most common in dogs and cats, a remarkable number of CC398-MRSA was detected in horses, indicating a replacement of CC8-MRSA as the predominant lineage within horses in Germany.

The scientists argued for more research in humans and animals to assess probable sources of MRSA infections.

“This would enable a sound risk assessment and establishment of intervention strategies to limit the additional spread of MRSA,” they said.

The study is entitled, “Alarming Proportions of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Wound Samples from Companion Animals, Germany 2010–2012″.

The researchers were from the Institute of Microbiology and Epizootics, which is part of the Veterinary Faculty at Free University Berlin; Vet Med Labor GmbH, a division of IDEXX Laboratories in Ludwigsburg; and the Department of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin.

Vincze S, Stamm I, Kopp PA, Hermes J, Adlhoch C, et al. (2014) Alarming Proportions of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Wound Samples from Companion Animals, Germany 2010–2012. PLoS ONE 9(1): e85656. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085656

The full study can be read here.

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