Campylobacter is back, and it's just as hard to treat as before

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With 30 people in 13 states reported ill, a new outbreak of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter jejuni linked to puppies sold in pet stores is underway.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bacteria taken from the affected people are genetically very similar to samples taken from people who fell ill during an outbreak of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections two years ago that was also traced back to pet store puppies.

Four people have been hospitalized so far. No deaths have been reported.

Among 24 infected people interviewed by health officials:

  • 21 (88%) of the 24 people reported contact with a puppy
  • 15 (71%) of those 21 people reported contact with a puppy from a pet store
  • 12 (80%) of those 15 people were linked to Petland, a national pet store chain
  • 5 (42%) of those 12 people were Petland employees

Although 12 of the infected people had contact with puppies at Petland, the company pointed out more than one-third of those infected lived in states that don’t have Petland locations, including Utah, Wyoming, and Maryland.

According to the CDC, a single, common supplier of infected puppies has not been identified.

Interestingly, when NEWStat first reported on the previous Campylobacter outbreak in October of 2017, the people infected included 12 Petland employees in 5 states. Other confirmed cases at the time included people who bought puppies at Petland, came in contact with puppies while shopping at Petland, or lived in a home with a puppy purchased at Petland.

This particular strain of Campylobacter is resistant to commonly recommended first-line antibiotics, including tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, nalidixic acid, azithromycin, erythromycin, clindamycin, telithromycin, and gentamicin.

The agency advises the following for veterinarians:

  • Puppies under 12 months old or dogs adopted from crowded environments or from pet stores who show signs of Campylobacter infection, including bloody mucoid diarrhea, should be examined
  • Laboratory confirmation of Campylobacter infection can be made from a fecal sample transported in Cary-Blair medium, or a quantitative-polymerase chain reaction from a fresh stool sample
  • Puppies and dogs with Campylobacter should be isolated to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Campylobacter infections are often self-limited and supportive care is often the only treatment needed
  • If laboratory testing confirms Campylobacter infection and antibiotic treatment is warranted, the choice of antibiotic should be guided by culture and sensitivity results. In addition to the antibiotics mentioned above, Campylobacter jejuni has inherent antibiotic resistance to other commonly prescribed antibiotics such as penicillins, cephalosporins, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, and metronidazole. Therefore, infections with the outbreak strain may be difficult to treat

The CDC says the investigation is ongoing and they’ll provide updates as more information becomes available.

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