A bacterial infection that has affected over 100 people has been linked to pet store puppies.
The outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni bacteria started in early 2016 and went until February 2018. It affected people from across 18 states. The bacteria causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever. Of those that fell ill, 29 are pet store employees.
An investigation that began in August 2017 eventually deduced that puppies were the source of the problem.
The investigation, published in a journal run by the CDC, found that healthy dogs were administered antibiotics as a means to keep them healthy. It is a technique used in food animal production. The practice is blamed for causing antibiotic resistance.
Dogs are known to cause Campylobacter jejuni infections in humans but are not typically the source of an outbreak. All the drugs commonly used to treat Campylobacter infections didn’t work, according to the study.
The Risk Continues
The study also said there is a continued risk to breeders, distributors, transporters, and stores related the pet industry, as well as pet owners.
“Antibiotics should only be used to treat illness, not to compensate for poor practices—whether it’s trucking dogs long distances and having poor hygiene in the process along the way,” said Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director for non-profit U.S. PIRG, via Scientific American. “These are lifesaving medicines that should only be used to treat sick animals or sick people.”
The study traced the problem back to six different pet store chains. According to CNN, the ages of those affected ranged from less than 1-year-old to more than 85-years-old, out of the 115 persons that the study collected age data from.
Twenty-six people were reported hospitalized from the outbreak, and 63 percent of 115 infected people were female. The CDC also reported that 105 of 106 people who reported being ill had dog exposure.
The report did not name the pet store chains, nor did it name the original Ohio pet chain that led to the multi-state investigation. Of 149 puppies investigated, 142 had received antibiotics.
In 2017, the World Health Organization called for limits on antibiotics used on food animals. STAT reported that WHO urged countries using them for growth promotion and disease prevention to introduce restrictions. The measure was aimed at preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics.
At the time, WHO commented on the potential impacts of restricting antibiotics in the food industry. “These impacts may be positive or negative. WHO considers, however, that the need to preserve antimicrobials or antibiotics for human medicine by far outweighs possible impacts in some other sectors,” WHO said, according to STAT.
According to WHO, in some countries, 80 percent of antibiotics are consumed for use in food animal production, STAT reported. WHO hopes to curb their use as a preventative agent.
“That’s why the WHO guidelines are meaningful—they make clear that in order to stop the misuse of antibiotics in the meat industry we need policies that prohibit antibiotic use for both growth promotion and disease prevention where no illness is present,” said Wellington, via STAT.