Pet store puppies appear to have caused an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant diarrhea that began in 2016. So far, over a hundred people from 18 states have fallen ill.

What does this say about current misuse of antibiotics?

Antibiotic-Resistant Diarrhea Cases Linked To Puppies

In the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the agency notes of over a hundred cases of antibiotic-resistant campylobacteriosis in 18 states, a diarrhea-causing illness caused by campylobacter infection. From January 2016 until February 2018, 118 people fell ill, 29 of whom were pet store employees. Fortunately, although 26 people had to be hospitalized, there were no deaths recorded in relation to the illnesses.

Of the people who fell ill, 105 reported dog exposure, including the 101 who reported being in contact with a pet store puppy. As a result, health authorities from four states collected antibiotic administration data on 154 puppies from 20 pet stores and found that among the 149 puppies with available data, 78 received the antibiotics as a prophylaxis only.

This means that the puppies were administered with antibiotics not because they were sick but to prevent them from getting sick. It is also the same practice being used in the production of livestock and something that is said to have contributed to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

As a result, public health officials have issued infection prevention recommendations to the affected pet stores as well as to veterinarians for testing puppies.

The Problem Of Antibiotic-Resistance

The illnesses highlight the widening issue of antibiotic-resistance in an industry apart from the livestock industry. As mentioned, the practice of administering antibiotics to animals that are not ill is seen as the driver of antibiotic resistance in livestock. In fact, a report released just last June even revealed that a majority of supermarket meats are contaminated with superbugs.

Because of the diarrhea outbreak, it is now clear that the problem also extends to the commercial dog industry as well, particularly when one considers that previous cases of campylobacteriosis outbreaks were fewer and were not of the antibiotic-resistant kind. Even experts were shocked to see the results of the CDC report, as the commercial dog industry was not previously seen as a main cause of concern when it comes to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistance.

“For me, this is an indication that they need to be raising these animals differently. They’re creating this terrible distribution system for multidrug-resistant bacteria,” said Lance Price of the George Washington University’s Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, an expert who was not involved in the study.

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