A deadly drug-resistant fungus listed as a ‘critical priority pathogen’ has been found living in the ears of dogs amid fears it could jump to humans, a new study warns.
The fungus, Candida auris, is a type of yeast that has spread over the world since it was first reported in Japan in 2009.
It can cause persistent and severe infections and widespread outbreaks in hospitals.
Antifungal medications often do not work against it and it is estimated that more than one in three patients with serious, invasive infections will die.
The World Health Organisation has declared it one of the world’s four ‘critical priority’ fungal pathogens.
Researchers have now discovered and isolated the first live culture of the drug-resistant pathogen in the ear canals of stray dogs.
The findings suggest that pets could act as reservoirs for superbugs and potentially transmit infections to humans.
Researchers tested skin and ear swab samples from 87 dogs housed in a shelter in Delhi.
Of those, 52 were strays already under intensive care for severe lesions due to chronic skin diseases.
The remaining 35 dogs were household pets treated for minor gastrointestinal and urinary infections.
However, all their conditions were not related to the fungus.
The swabs were analyzed for bacteria and fungi cultures and revealed that C. auris was within the ear canals of four of the animals with chronic skin infections.
“These dogs could act as transmission vehicles for C. auris to reach other animals and humans.”
After analyzing the DNA of the pathogen, the team found similarities between some of the strains found in the dogs and those found in humans.
This discovery is a point of concern for scientists as these similarities could mean that the fungus could spread from dogs to humans.
When humans are infected with C. auris, inanimate objects in the environment are readily contaminated by the shedding of skin scales.
C. auris has been discovered on the surface of stored apples and in tidal marshes.
It has also been found to survive in harsh conditions, such as wastewater.
Because the yeast was found within the ear canal of the dogs, versus exposed skin, shedding in the immediate environment was reduced, containing the spread of infection.
Dr. Xu, who is also an investigator with the university’s Global Nexus School for Pandemic Prevention and Response, added: “We need to be vigilant in the surveillance of dogs, other domesticated pets and wild animals in regions where C. auris is endemic.
“While C. auris spreads easily from human to human, the route of transmission among animals or from animals to humans is much less clear and further investigation is required.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker