Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” — which the World Health Organization calls one of the greatest global public health threats — usually conjure up images of hospital environments.
But new research may point to a less obvious source: the family dog.
Researchers warned Sunday of “an international public health risk” after finding antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a range of different types of raw dog food.
“The trend of feeding dogs raw food may encourage the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” the researchers said in a press release for their study, which will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.
Separate research to be presented at the same conference has found that antibiotic resistance can be transmitted between dogs and their owners as a last resort.
Antibiotic-resistant insects can potentially kill minor injuries and common infections.
Resistance has increased in recent years due to overuse of such drugs in humans and farm animals.
In the dog food study, a team from the University of Porto analyzed 55 dog food samples from 25 brands, including 14 frozen raw varieties, looking for Enterococci bacteria.
The bacteria can live harmlessly in the intestines of humans and animals, but can be dangerous in other parts of the body and can be resistant to antibiotics.
Researchers found that all raw dog food samples contained antibiotic-resistant enterococci, including bacteria resistant to the final antibiotic, linezolid.
Genetic sequencing revealed that some of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the raw dog food were of the same species as seen in hospitalized patients in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.
“The close contact of people with dogs and the commercialization of the brands studied in different countries poses an international risk to public health,” said researcher Ana Freitas.
“European authorities need to raise awareness about the potential health risks of feeding raw foods to pets and review the production of dog food, including ingredient selection and hygiene practices.”
She added that dog owners should wash their hands after handling pet food and disposing of feces.
In a separate study, not yet submitted to a medical journal for publication, another team from Portugal tested pet owners and animals from 80 households for bacteria with the mcr-1 gene, which confers resistance to the latest antibiotic colistin.
All 126 people were healthy, while half of the 102 pets sampled had skin or urinary tract infections.
Four people and eight dogs tested positive for bacteria carrying mcr-1, and the gene was found in both the dog and the owner in two households.
“Genetic analysis of the samples suggested that in one of these two cases, the gene had been passed between pet and owner,” a press release said about the study, adding that the gene was thought to have been passed from dog to human.
They added that this raises concerns that pets may spread resistance to antibiotics as a last resort.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest public health threats facing humanity.
Drug-resistant infections kill an estimated 700,000 people a year worldwide, and the UN has warned that number could rise to 10 million by 2050 if no action is taken.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)