Why You REALLY Shouldn’t Let Your Dog Lick Your Face
Letting your dog lick your face or eat off your plate could be fueling the superbug crisis, a study has warned.
Experts have also called on pet owners to wash their hands after petting their pets or picking up dog feces, in a bid to stem the spread of deadly insects.
Antibiotic resistance, considered as big a threat as terrorism and global warming, kills millions of people every year. It is caused by pathogens evolving to evade medication, with the problem fueled by unnecessary prescriptions of antibiotics.
But scientists fear that cats and dogs could become potential reservoirs for antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
A team of British and Portuguese researchers say transmission occurs ‘via the faecal-oral route’, meaning dogs licking their backs could spread the drug-resistant bacteria.
Humans can also become infected by touching dog feces and then later their mouths, if they don’t wash their hands.
Although cute, letting dogs and cats lick your face could increase your risk of catching a superbug, a type of drug-resistant bacteria.
WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
Antibiotics have been dispensed unnecessarily by GPs and hospital staff for decades, fueling once harmless bacteria to become superbugs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously warned that if nothing is done, the world is heading towards a “post-antibiotic” era.
He claimed that common infections, such as chlamydia, would become killers without immediate solutions to the growing crisis.
Bacteria can become resistant to drugs when people take the wrong doses of antibiotics or if they are given unnecessarily.
Former Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies claimed in 2016 that the threat of antibiotic resistance is as serious as terrorism.
Figures estimate that superbugs will kill 10 million people each year by 2050, with patients succumbing to the once harmless bugs.
Around 700,000 people already die every year from drug-resistant infections, including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria worldwide.
Concerns have repeatedly been expressed that medicine will be pushed back into the “dark ages” if antibiotics become ineffective in the coming years.
In addition to existing drugs becoming less effective, there have only been one or two new antibiotics developed in the last 30 years.
In 2019, the WHO warned that antibiotics were “running out” as a report revealed a “serious shortage” of new drugs being developed.
Without antibiotics, C-sections, cancer treatments and hip replacements will become incredibly “risky”, it was said at the time.
Experts from the UK’s Royal Veterinary College and the University of Lisbon tested the faeces of human and animal inhabitants of 41 Portuguese and 45 British households.
The project, which will be presented at a medical conference in Portugal, included a total of 114 humans, 85 dogs and 18 cats.
Samples were taken and then genetically tested for superbugs.
Scientists found 14 dogs, one cat and 15 humans tested positive for strains of E. drug-resistant coli, which can be fatal in some cases.
These strains are known to be resistant to several antibiotics, such as penicillin and cephalosporins.
Additionally, in four households, people and their pets had bacteria with matching antibiotic resistance genes.
The results implied that one had contaminated the other.
The study was observational only, which means it cannot prove that pets were directly responsible for spreading the superbugs to their owners.
However, lead author Dr Juliana Menezes, an expert in veterinary science, said their findings were worrying.
“Even before Covid, antibiotic resistance was one of the biggest threats to public health,” she said.
“It can make conditions such as pneumonia, sepsis, urinary tract and wound infections incurable.
“Our findings reinforce the need for people to practice good hygiene around their pets and reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in pets and humans.”
She also told The Telegraph that bacteria spreading between people and their pets was likely to come from a variety of events.
“Risk factors include kissing, licking the owner’s face, or eating from the owner’s plate,” she said.
“To reduce the spread of these bacteria within the household would require reducing this close relationship between owners and their pets, and also having greater hygiene practices.
“Knowing that the bacteria we studied colonize the gastrointestinal tract, transmission is via the fecal-oral route, so good hygiene practices on the part of owners would help reduce sharing, such as washing hands after collecting canine droppings, or even after petting them.
The study will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon later this month.
Despite the potential risk of superbugs, owning a pet has been linked to numerous physical and mental health benefits.
These include helping to lower blood pressure and providing companionship to increase opportunities for exercise and socializing with others.
Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Oxford said antibiotic-resistant infections directly killed 1.2 million people in 2019 and contributed to the deaths of 5 million. others.
This chart shows the combined direct and associated deaths from antibiotic-resistant bacteria by world region in 2019. Africa and South Asia had the highest number of deaths per 100,000 population, but countries in Western Europe like the UK still recorded a significantly high number of deaths. death