Many animals featured at petting zoos may be colonized with one or more strains of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase, or ESBL, and AmpC-producing Enterobacteriaceae, according to research presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.
“The risk for illness at petting zoos depends on various factors, including the source of exposure to the pathogen, the type of pathogen and its potential virulence, the person exposed and their immune status,” Shiri Navon-Venezia, PhD, professor in the department of molecular biology at Ariel University in Israel, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “For example, young babies are at greater risk for infection than teenagers with a developed immune system.”
To avoid potentially dangerous pathogens at petting zoos, visitors should follow hygiene practices, including hand-washing before and after animal contact.
“Parents should also assist young children and make sure their family avoids eating and drinking near animals,” Navon-Venezia said.
The researchers collected samples from 42 different species of animals found at eight randomly selected petting zoos between December 2016 and May 2017.
Of the 228 animals included in the analysis, 12% were colonized with ESBL and AmpC-producing Enterobacteriaceae, with 35 bacteria identified. Most of the bacteria were recovered from fecal samples (77%), whereas 23% were found in samples taken from skin, fur or feathers. One-quarter of animals that were positive for the bacteria were colonized with more than one strain.
Findings presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases suggest that many animals in petting zoos may be colonized with MDR bacteria.
According to the researchers, 55% of the bacteria recovered were Enterobacter species (including 52% E. cloacae complex and 3% E. amnigenus), 31% were Escherichia coli, and 14% were Citrobacter species (including 11% C. freundii and 3% C. braakii).
Navon-Venezia and colleagues found diverse E. cloacae and E. coli sequence types, including the enterotoxigenic E. coli ST656 — a strain they said can be highly virulent — and uropathogenic E. coli ST127 strains.
Further analysis showed that animals treated with antibiotic therapy had a significantly higher risk for colonization (OR = 7.34).
“Petting zoos should apply easy hygiene practices, such as making child-height hand-washing stations available near animal and petting areas,” Navon-Venezia said. “Zoos can also restrict eating and drinking areas and put signs up to remind visitors to wash their hands.” – by Katherine Bortz
Shnaiderman-Torban A, et al. Abstract 1514. Presented at: ECCMID; April 13-16, 2019; Amsterdam.
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.