Department of Biological Sciences, Veterinary Microbiology Research University of Lincoln
Extensive media coverage has made most people aware of the risk of Methicillin Resistant Staphylo-coccus Aureus (MRSA) in human hospitals. Only recently has attention been given to the risk of MRSA in animals. More cases of MRSA infection in companion animals, particularly dogs, are being reported and more awareness is being raised about the risk to animals. Though incidence of MRSA in animals is well below levels found in human hospitals, the increase in reported cases makes it prudent to consider alternative prevention methods, over and above the already existing hygiene measures.
MRSA is a relatively common microorganism. Humans and to lesser extent animals can carry it around with them as a harmless skin bacterium
Veterinary surgeries should have a whole range of hygiene measures in place to minimise the chance of microbial infection. These should include the operating theatre itself, the use of sterile gloves, masks, gowns, drapes etc., as well as a clean recovery area. As the pet owner you should feel free to inquire about the measures in place at your veterinary surgery. Particular attention should also be given to the post-operative measures.
Your dog will be recovering from surgery at your veterinary practice as well as continuing this recovery at your home. In both scenarios the chances of exposure to microbes are increased as the environment cannot be controlled as easily as during surgery. During recovery the dog’s surgical wounds will be exposed to the environment of their kennel which in turn is exposed to contact with veterinary staff, owners and also the dog’s own body.
To minimise this exposure the wound can be covered with a dressing or bandage but we should also take measures to keep the direct environment such as pet-bedding as clean as possible. Clean pet-bedding that gets into contact with veterinary staff, the owner or the dog’s body itself, can become contaminated with microbes and so become a source of MRSA infection.
If vets and owners can eradicate this source, then it may provide an additional tool in the prevention of post surgical infection. With this in mind the inclusion of an anti-microbial fibre into pet-bedding was investigated. Research carried out by the University of Lincoln has shown that inclusion of an anti-microbial fibre within textiles such as pet-bedding and bandages may prevent their contamination with organisms like MRSA.
The intention is that even after accidental contamination with MRSA, the anti-microbial fibre will still kill off the MRSA within the bedding.
The anti-microbial fibre can be integrated into any fabric without affecting its function. Consequently, pet-bedding (medibed by Equimed) as well as bandages were developed that incorporated these fibres. The structure of the fibre allows the anti-microbial agent to continuously seep out onto the surface of the fibre to keep replenishing the bedding (fig. 1).
Due to this built in activity, textiles containing these fibres do not have to be re-impregnated or treated in any way. The products can be washed as frequently as desired without losing their anti-microbial activity. This activity is provided by a compound called triclosan, an anti-bacterial that has a long safety track record and is, for example, used in human toothpastes.
The novel method of application, i.e. the hollow anti-microbial fibres within textiles, ensures that the compound is constantly there where it is needed without over-exposing the environment, animals or humans.
Extensive research has been carried out by the University of Lincoln to demonstrate that the anti-microbial textile is effective against relevant organisms. Trials carried out on Staphylococcus aureus (including MRSA), clearly demonstrate the anti-bacterial inhibition in-vitro (fig. 2). Research has also demonstrated inhibition against ringworm organisms Trichophyton equinum and Microsporum canis and against Malassezia pachydermatis in-vitro, preventing the contamination of the pet-bedding with these fungi.