Woman and Cat Shared Staph Bug

Few cases of a cat harboring a drug-resistant version of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have been reported.

Posted: March 17 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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A German woman has been successfully treated for a drug-resistant version of the superbug MRSA after her doctors tested and treated the family cat for the bacteria. While previous cases of staph infections have turned up in family dogs and even pigs, this is just one of a few reported cases of a cat harboring the bug, The Washington Post reports.

The case was outlined in a letter in the March 13 issue of the “New England Journal of Medicine.” A woman developed deep abscesses on her back that were resistant to treatment with antibiotics. Testing revealed that her husband and two children carried staph germs on their skin but were not infected.

Antibiotics and antiseptic washes killed the infection on the family members’ skin, but the woman continued to be infected, according to Dr. Andreas Sing, a microbiologist at the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority in Oberschleissheim, Germany, near Munich. Doctors decided to test the family cats for the infection, and determined that one cat harbored the bacteria.

“Animals and especially pets or companion animals might serve as reservoirs for human-pathogenic bacteria,” Sing said. However, scientists believe the woman initially transmitted the bacteria to her cat, who then gave it back to her.

Skin-to-skin contact spreads MRSA from person to person. Other transmission methods include contact with contaminated surfaces, and transmission has been linked to crowded living conditions and poor hygiene, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most MRSA infections crop up in hospitals and nursing homes, more cases of community-acquired infections have been reported.

The German woman’s family cat was successfully treated for the infection, and after four weeks, the woman also was free of infection.

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Reader Comments

Tanya    Paden City, WV

3/18/2008 9:59:31 PM

Dear CC.com
Hello. Wow! That was very interesting. Really interesting. I knew some things could be transferred from pet to owner (& back), but not that. Thanks for this, as well as all of your great articles.
Tanya & the FAMILY

Sheryl    Casa Grande, AZ

3/18/2008 12:22:10 AM

Glad the kitty was successfully treated, too!

Cathy    Hubbard, OH

3/17/2008 5:12:27 AM

Thank goodness both were able to be treated effecively.

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