Giving antibiotic to healthy dogs helped bacterial infection spread to people, study finds

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria that infected over 100 people and were associated with pet store puppies spread in part because healthy dogs received antibiotics — a decision contributing to antibiotic resistance, according to a study covered by STAT.

Over half of the puppies in a sample of about 150 dogs studied in the outbreak investigation received antibiotics not to treat sickness, but to prevent illness, according to the study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

This preventive measure, called prophylaxis, is used in food animal production and is blamed for fueling antibiotic resistance.

The outbreak of the bacteria, Campylobacter jejuni, spanned from early 2016 to February 2018. The bacteria causes diarrheal disease.

People fell ill in 18 states, 29 of whom were pet store employees. The investigation, which began in August of 2017, found puppies were the source of the issue.

"Outbreak isolates were resistant by antibiotic susceptibility testing to all antibiotics commonly used to treat Campylobacter infections," the authors said. "This outbreak demonstrates that puppies can be a source of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections in humans, warranting a closer look at antimicrobial use in the commercial dog industry."

The CDC is working with veterinarian associations and the commercial dog industry to make changes, said senior study author Mark Laughlin, a veterinarian with the CDC's division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases.

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