Antibiotic-resistant ‘superbug’ gene found in UK dog

Researchers are calling for improved surveillance of ‘last resort’ antimicrobials.

‘Surprise’ finding highlights need for routine surveillance

Researchers are calling for improved surveillance of ‘last resort’ antimicrobials in companion animals after a drug-resistant ‘superbug’ gene was discovered in a UK dog for the first time.

Scientists made the discovery in a springer spaniel after isolating Escherichia coli (E. Coli) from a wound. The isolate was found to harbour a gene resistant to carbapenems – a class of antibiotics used to treat-life-threatening infections – along with genes resistant to other commonly-used antibiotics. 

The study is published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

Dr Dorina Timofte, who oversaw the study at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Veterinary Science, said: “Worldwide there are very few reports of carbapenem-resistant isolates in pets and although the prevalence identified in this study was low (0.5 per cent), it was still surprising.”

“Carbapenems are not authorised for use in EU or UK companion animals, but these findings are worrying due to the close contact between household pets and people which may allow bacteria to transfer between the species.”

She continued: “Although epidemiological data was not available for us to determine the origin of this carbapenem-resistant isolate, the similarity of its genetic background with that of human isolates carrying the same resistance genes here in the UK suggests that it may indeed be of human origin.”

“Larger, systematic and prospective studies are now needed to identify the occurrence of carbapenem-resistance in companion animals, which we hope to address in future projects.”

Scientists say the finding highlights the need for routine laboratory detection of carbapenem resistance in companion animals and improved antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary practice.

In recent years, various multi-drug resistant pathogens – including MRSA – have been associated with illness and carriage in pets. But while surveillance of resistance to commonly used antibiotics has grown, there is limited surveillance of ‘last resort’ antimicrobials like carbapenems.

Dr Timofte continued: “Veterinary diagnostic laboratories play a major role in surveillance of AMR, monitoring trends of resistance and detecting new emerging patterns of resistance, yet at present screening for resistance to last resort antimicrobials is voluntary.”