Laurel E. Redding
Pet ownership and close interactions with these pets may protect against the recurrence of community-acquired Clostridioides difficile infection, according to a study published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.
“With an increasing number of C. difficile infections (CDI) that are community acquired, there is still an open question as to the source of these infections,” Laurel E. Redding, VMD, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, told Healio. “The zoonotic transmission of C. difficile to people has been suggested as a possibility, and recent genomic studies have documented the presence of identical clones of C. difficile in people and animals. We therefore wanted to investigate whether pet ownership was a risk factor for recurrence of C. difficile.”
According to Redding, the team’s hypothesis was based on the knowledge that pet owners frequently engage in activities that could facilitate transfer of infectious pathogens between themselves and their pets — such as allowing a pet to lick one’s hands and face, picking up fecal matter and sleeping with a pet — and that pets engage in behaviors that facilitate the acquisition of pathogens. As a result, a patient who experienced CDI could transmit the pathogen to their pet, which could then act as a reservoir for recurrence of C. difficile in the patient or colonization of people who do not carry the pathogen.
To test this theory, Redding and colleagues performed a case-control study of patients with recurrent CDI (n = 86) and patients with nonrecurrent CDI (n = 146) to determine the association between recurrence of CDI and pet ownership.
Close interactions with pets can protect against recurrent CDI.
Redding says that the study results were contrary to what they anticipated.
“Having pets and increasing contact with those pets was protective against recurrence of CDI, even when accounting for other predisposing factors, such as gastric acid suppression and multiple instances of hospitalization,” she said.
Pet ownership did not correlate significantly with recurrence of CDI (OR = 1.02; 95% CI, 0.38-2.72) among all patients (n = 232). However, among the subset of patients with community-associated or community-onset health care facility-acquired CDI (n = 127), increasing contact with pets was increasingly protective against recurrence. For every point increase in a pet contact score (out of 7 potential points), the odds of recurrence decreased by 14% (OR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.74-1.00).
“One hopes that these results are generalizable to all patients, but obviously more research with larger numbers of patients would be needed to definitively say so,” Redding concluded. “There are other diseases where we do worry about close contact with animals; for example, patients with organ transplants are generally told to avoid contact with animals such as reptiles that could harbor pathogens like Salmonella, and outbreaks of certain diseases such as campylobacteriosis have been traced back to contact with pets or livestock. In the case of C. difficile infection, our findings do not support that pets pose such a risk.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin
Disclosures: Redding reports no relevant financial disclosures.