Animals provide benefits to elderly and chronically ill people by decreasing loneliness, increasing social interactions, and improving mental health. As a result, many hospitals and long-term care facilities allow family pets to visit ill or convalescing patients or support animal-assisted therapy programs. These include programs that have resident animals in long-term care facilities. Despite the benefits, there are concerns about disease transmission between pets and patients. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), are a recognized problem in healthcare settings leading to refractory infections and potentially life-threatening illnesses. MRSA has been isolated from numerous animal species, yet few studies are available on the carriage of this pathogen in animals residing in long-term care facilities. Our objective was to characterize MRSA carriage among resident animals in a long-term care facility.
Methods: To document MRSA colonization, nasal swabs from 12 resident animals (one dogs and 11 cats) of a long-term care facility were collected weekly for 8 weeks. Staphylococcus isolates were characterized by antimicrobial susceptibility and MRSA isolates were further characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). PFGE isolate patterns were compared with an existing database of MRSA isolate patterns at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Results: Two of 11 cats were colonized with MRSA. MRSA was recovered from five of eight weekly samples in one cat and two of eight weekly samples in the other cat. All isolates were classified as USA100 (healthcare-associated strains).
Discussion: Long-term care resident animals may acquire MRSA. Clonally related strains were identified over the 8-week sampling period. It is unclear if pets serve as an on-going source of infection to their human companions in long-term care facilities.