Your Cat Could Carry ‘Good’ Bacteria That Fight Resistant Staph Infections

Bacteria from healthy cats have been shown to produce antibodies with some impressive skin-healing properties … in mice.

A new study on these properties suggests that we might one day use such antibodies to potentially treat infections in humans and other animals.

This approach is a type of bacteriotherapy – using “good” bacteria that are known to provide various health benefits to help protect against “bad” bacteria (or pathogens). It is a balance towards which scientists are constantly gaining new knowledge.

Here researchers use cat bacteria to protect mice against the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius or MRSP pathogens: This bacterium is often found in domesticated animals and can multiply uncontrollably in the event of illness or injury.

The results of the study suggest that good bacteria found in cats provide strong protection against MRSP – not just in mice, as shown in this case, but possibly also in humans, who can ingest the good bacteria as well.

“It is even possible that living with a healthy cat offers humans some protection against MRSP,” says Richard Gallo, a medical doctor of the University of California San Diego. “So this could be an argument in support of pet ownership.”

MRSP can switch between types – for example, it has been known to cause eczema in dogs, cats, and humans. As you can tell by the “methicillin resistant” part, traditional antibiotics don’t work and it’s difficult to treat.

The team assembled a library of bacteria normally found in dogs and cats and then co-bred it with MRSP. This enabled them to identify a strain called Staphylococcus felis that was blocking MRSP growth.

It seems that the numerous antibiotics naturally produced by S. felis are sufficient to destroy the walls of the MRSP cells and kill the pathogen. Upon closer analysis, S. felis turned out to be a very effective biological fighting machine.

“The potency of it [S. felis] Species are extreme, “says Gallo.” They are very capable of killing pathogens, partly because they attack them from many directions – a strategy known as polypharmacy. That makes it particularly attractive as a therapeutic agent. “

Tests with S. felis on mice infected with MRSP showed a reduction in the redness and the extent of the infection. Further observations showed that fewer viable MRSP bacteria remained on the skin after treatment.

In addition, this bacterium is particularly effective against antibiotic resistance: it produces four different antimicrobial peptides that work together to make it more difficult to defend against the MRSP pathogen.

There is still a long way to go to get this working as a potential human treatment; As a next step, the researchers want to test their work on dogs.

But if the findings on S. felis can be further developed into a protective product, the possibilities are endless – it could eventually be applied as a spray, cream, or gel, and we don’t even have to worry about it accidentally being washed off the skin .

“The skin was designed to protect the good bacteria, so soap and detergents don’t usually wash the good guys off,” says Gallo.

The research was published in eLife.

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