Pet Store Dogs to Blame for Campylobacter Outbreak

September 25, 2018
Amanda Carrozza

Amanda Carrozza is a freelance writer and editor in New Jersey.

The CDC has linked a multidrug-resistant Campylobacter outbreak to exposure to pet store puppies.

A Campylobacter jejuni outbreak that affected 118 people across 18 states has been linked officially to puppies sold at pet stores, according to results of a CDC investigation. The infection was traced to dogs sold at 6 pet store companies between January 2016 and February 2018.

The investigation began in August 2017, when the Florida Department of Health notified the CDC of 6 infections linked to a national pet store chain. Initial reports named an Ohio-based pet store chain as a main source of the infection. Since then, illnesses have been reported in 17 other states: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Although the infection was traced back to 25 breeders and 8 distributors, the CDC did not identify a source of the infection.

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Of the patients interviewed by the CDC, 99% reported direct contact with a dog and 95% said the dog they’d touched was a pet store puppy. Affected individuals ranged in age from younger than 1 to 85 years (median, 26 years), and most (63%) were female.

Most people infected with Campylobacter recover within a week without medical intervention. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. In severe cases, however, Campylobacter infection can lead to paralysis or death. Of the 118 people infected in this outbreak—including 29 store employees—26 were hospitalized, but there were no fatalities.

Samples of the bacteria from patients showed resistance to all antibiotics commonly used to treat Campylobacter infections, including macrolides and quinolones. Record reviews from the stores in question revealed that of the 149 investigated puppies, 142 received 1 or more courses of antibiotics, raising concern that antibiotic use might have led to the development of resistance. This outbreak demonstrates that puppies can be a source of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections in humans, warranting a closer look at antimicrobial use in the commercial dog industry, the CDC’s statement in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reads in part.