If you’d like to avoid intense abdominal pain and diarrhea the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s a new place you should be wary of: pet stores. According to a new report by the CDC, well over 100 people across 18 states have come down with a drug-resistant bacterial infection after cuddling pet store puppies from six different companies.
The bacteria, called Campylobacter jejuni, can cause some very serious symptoms including the aforementioned diarrhea and abdominal discomfort, as well as fever. Thus far, 26 individuals have been hospitalized due to the severity of their symptoms, but no deaths have been reported.
The report reaches all the way back to 2016, when an investigation into this particular strain of bacteria was prompted by a report from the Florida Department of Health. At that point, the CDC became involved and a multi-state investigation was launched to trace the origin of the infections.
Of the confirmed cases of infection, 29 of the individuals were pet store employees, which obviously served as a huge red flag for health officials. Eventually, a total of 118 individuals were identified as having been infected.
Samples from 149 pet store puppies were obtained, and officials began to go over their treatment records. They found that nearly all of them had been given at least one course of antibiotics, which strongly suggests that past treatment may have led to the bacteria becoming drug-resistant.
“Public health authorities issued infection prevention recommendations to affected pet stores and recommendations for testing puppies to veterinarians,” the CDC’s report notes. “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.”
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a major concern for health organizations the world over. The worry is that, over time, strains of bacteria will mutate too rapidly to be caught by existing antibiotics and fast-spreading outbreaks could cause a serious health crisis. Researchers have been working with doctors to figure out a way to prevent this from happening in humans, but now the same attention might need to be paid to our four-legged friends as well.