Pet Contact in Nursing Homes: Infection Risk for Residents?

William R. Jarvis, MD


June 18, 2012


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Hi. This is Dr. William Jarvis, Medscape Infectious Disease Expert Advisor and President of Jason and Jarvis Associates. Today, I would like to tell you about a study by Gandolfi-Decristophoris and colleagues[1] published in American Journal of Infection Control. This was an evaluation of pet contact as a risk factor for carriage of multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in nursing home residents. Pets often are used for companionship and psychological support and therapy of nursing home patients.

In this study, carriage of multidrug-resistant S aureus was evaluated in pets and in 2 groups of nursing home residents, those living in nursing homes with pets and those living in nursing homes without pets. This study was conducted in 4 cantons of Switzerland: Bern, Ticino, Vaud, and Zurich. Samples were collected between March 2008 and September 2009.

Nasal and ear swabs were obtained from the pets and nasal swabs from the nursing home residents. Multidrug-resistant S aureus was detected in 84 of 229 (37%) nursing home residents living with pets and in 99 of 216 (46%) nursing home residents who did not live with pets. Multidrug-resistant S aureus was more common in nursing homes without pets than in those with pets.

Active pet contact was associated with lower nasal carriage of multidrug-resistant S aureus. Not surprisingly, antibiotics received within the previous 3 months were associated with significantly increased risk for multidrug-resistant S aureus carriage. This study found no evidence that previously reported benefits of pet contact are compromised by an increased risk for multidrug-resistant S aureus in nursing home residents who have pet contact. This study gives us the evidence that pets can be used in nursing home residents for both psychological support and companionship.


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