People struggling to get rid of recurrent staph infections might want to consider an often-overlooked source: the family pet. A German woman repeatedly battled the same strain of drug-resistant superbug MRSA until her cat was tested and treated. It's one of the few documented cases of transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus between a person and a cat.
The otherwise healthy woman had deep abscesses, or boils, all over her back, said Dr. Andreas Sing, a microbiologist at the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority in Oberschleissheim near Munich. Nasal and other swabs from her husband and two children showed they carried the MRSA germ on skin but had no signs of infection.
Antiseptic washes and antibiotic nasal ointment killed the germ in the other family members, but the woman was still infected. Four weeks after the apparently healthy cat was treated with antibiotics, the woman was free of MRSA and her abscesses had all healed, Sing wrote in a brief report in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
"I think the woman infected the cat and the cat had it and might have reinfected the woman," Sing said in an interview.
Several previous cases of MRSA infections in dogs and their owners have been reported, as well as a cluster in pigs and farmers in the Netherlands, said Dr. Neil Fishman of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
He said the problem is more common in people with weak immune systems and urged people to regularly wash up after handling pets.