JUL 13, 2016 7:44 AM PDT

Diagnosed: Woman Contracted Sepsis from Her Dog's Licks

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
In a new study, ominously titled “The Lick of Death,” doctors report friendly licks from her beloved Italian greyhound sent a woman to the ER with a near deadly blood infection. The case report detailed a microbe living in the dog’s mouth as the cause of the infection. That a simple lick could have transmitted the bug from dog to human alarmed the doctors, and the incident probably adds a compelling reason against doggy kisses and licks.
Doggy kisses sent a woman to the hospital with sepsis | Image: pixabay.com
 The patient is a 70-year-old woman from the United Kingdom who was admitted to the ER from what doctors thought to be seizures. However, her condition deteriorated quickly – she suffered from fevers, chills, diarrhea, and sudden kidney failure. Doctors then diagnosed her with severe sepsis – a potentially lethal inflammatory reaction to infection involving the whole blood system.
 
Lab results revealed the woman was infected with Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a bacteria that’s part of the normal flora in the mouths of dogs and cats. C. canimorsus is often transmitted to humans through bites or scratches. But the doctors did not note any signs of broken skin on the woman. She did, however, report close contact with her dog, including letting the dog lick her face. Transmission of C. canimorsus through saliva contact is rare, but have been documented.
 
"[C. canimorsus] is an organism carried in the mouths of dog and it causes a very bad sepsis infection. But it's usually in people who are immunocompromised and usually follows a dog bite. But this is unusual because it was a lick," said Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.
 

Farber mentioned that he’s only seen about two such cases in his 30 years of treating infectious diseases. Others concur that such severe infection is typically very rare. Thus, Farber says, "The last thing you want to do is alarm people that they'll be infected if they get licked or kissed by a dog."
 
At the same time, he and the authors of the study echo the same sentiment: we should be more aware of the microbes our pets carry and how it may be transmitted into our systems, especially for infants, the elderly, and others who may be immunocompromised.
 
"This report highlights that [C. canimorsus] infection can occur without overt scratch or bite injuries," the doctors wrote in their study. "It also reminds us that the elderly are at higher risk of infection [with this bacterium], perhaps due to age-related immune dysfunction and increasing pet ownership," they said.
 
With prompt treatment of antibiotics, the woman is reported to be in full recovery.

Additional source: CBS News
 
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 03, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Spit Contains Concussion Clues
DEC 03, 2020
Spit Contains Concussion Clues
Drowsiness, confusion, headaches, and sensitivity to light — it’s sometimes hard for doctors to spot the sig ...
DEC 15, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Who Should Get the COVID Vaccine First?
DEC 15, 2020
Who Should Get the COVID Vaccine First?
Drug developers’ frantic hunt for vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 has finally begun to bear fruit, with several vaccin ...
DEC 16, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Gene Marker PACS a Punch for Cervical Cancer Treatments
DEC 16, 2020
Gene Marker PACS a Punch for Cervical Cancer Treatments
In cervical cancer, mutations in healthy cells cause cells to grow and multiply uncontrollably, invading surrounding tis ...
DEC 26, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Navigating the Genomic Landscape of Cancer in Asians
DEC 26, 2020
Navigating the Genomic Landscape of Cancer in Asians
Precision medicine — a clinical paradigm that tailors treatments specifically to patients based on their genetic a ...
FEB 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
As Many as 20% of Patients Would Benefit From Pharmacogenetic Testing
FEB 01, 2021
As Many as 20% of Patients Would Benefit From Pharmacogenetic Testing
Researchers have suggested that a simple genetic test could be a huge benefit to public health; it could tell clinicians ...
FEB 25, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Better Way to Triage COVID Patients
FEB 25, 2021
A Better Way to Triage COVID Patients
Australian researchers have developed a COVID-19 triaging tool that serves as a crystal ball for healthcare workers. Onc ...
Loading Comments...