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Zoonoses Public Health. 2012 Jun;59(4):286-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2011.01448.x. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

Potential for pet animals to harbour methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus when residing with human MRSA patients.

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Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Colonization by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) may be persistent in people and is horizontally transmissible. The scientific literature suggests that domestic pets may also participate in cross-transmission of MRSA within households. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the prevalence of and risk factors for MRSA carriage by pets residing in households with an MRSA-infected person. From 66 households in which an MRSA-infected patient resided, we screened 47 dogs and 52 cats using a swab protocol. Isolates from pets and humans were genotyped using two techniques and compared for concordance. Human participants completed a 22-question survey of demographic and epidemiologic data relevant to staphylococcal transmission. Eleven of 99 pets (11.5%) representing 9 (13.6%) of households were MRSA-positive, but in only six of these households were the human and animal-source strains genetically concordant. Human infection by strain USA 100 was significantly associated with pet carriage [OR = 11.4 (95% CI 1.7, 76.9); P = 0.013]. Yet, for each day of delay in sampling the pet after the person's MRSA diagnosis, the odds of isolating any type of MRSA from the pet decreased by 13.9% [(95% CI 2.6, 23.8); P = 0.017)]. It may be concluded that pets can harbour pandemic strains of MRSA while residing in a household with an infected person. However, the source of MRSA to the pet cannot always be attributed to the human patient. Moreover, the rapid attrition of the odds of obtaining a positive culture from pets over time suggests that MRSA carriage may be fleeting.

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