Therapy or comfort dogs may increase infection risk

Hospital patients who spend more time with therapy or comfort dogs may be at increased risk of contracting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial infection that has become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections, according to an unpublished limited study.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health observed 45 children in the pediatric oncology outpatient wards at the hospital who interacted with therapy dogs between 2016 and 2017. As Modernhealthcare.com reported in October, “researchers found MRSA on 10% of the samples taken from the children and on nearly 40% of samples taken from the dogs” after the children’s visits with dogs, whereas MRSA was not found on any of the children prior to their interaction with dogs.

One of the study’s authors went on to report, however, that “patients’ risk of contracting MRSA fell by 90% when the dogs were bathed with shampoo containing the antiseptic chlorhexidine prior to the visit and were wiped with disinfectant wipes throughout their hospital visit.”

Bathing of comfort animals is one of the recommendations issued by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and which many hospitals and animal therapy programs follow. Teresa Pichay, regulatory compliance analyst at CDA Practice Support, says that dental offices using comfort dogs for their patients should consider following the society’s recommendations.

Read more about this research in the Modern Healthcare article “New study scrutinizes hospitals’ therapy dog programs.”

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