Concern Rises as Researchers Uncover Drug-Resistant Pathogen Thriving in Dogs’ Ears with Potential to Infect Humans

Genetic relationships of C. auris isolates from dog ears and clade I strains from other countries inferred based on concatenated genome-wide SNPs. Branches with bootstrap support over 0.95 are highlighted in purple. Indian strains were labeled with triangles in various colors to indicate their isolation sources. The inner color strips specify the geographic location of the isolates. Credit: Journal of Fungi (2023). DOI: 10.3390/jof9070720

A team of scientists from McMaster University and the University of Delhi in India has made a groundbreaking discovery. They have successfully isolated the drug-resistant pathogen Candida auris from the ear canals of stray dogs, marking the first time this notorious superbug has been found in an animal. This finding raises concerns about the potential transmission of infections from pets to humans, making it a matter of great importance to public health.

Candida auris, initially reported in Japan in 2009, is a type of yeast that has since become a global phenomenon. It is notorious for causing persistent and severe infections, leading to widespread outbreaks in hospitals. Unfortunately, conventional antifungal medications often prove ineffective against this pathogen, and it has been estimated that over one-third of patients with invasive infections caused by C. auris may not survive.

In recognition of its threat to public health, the World Health Organization has categorized C. auris as one of the world’s four critical priority fungal pathogens.

In their study, published in the esteemed Journal of Fungi, the researchers conducted tests on 87 dogs, which were a combination of strays with severe skin conditions and household pets treated for minor infections. Skin and ear swab samples were collected from the dogs and analyzed for bacterial and fungal cultures. Four of the animals with chronic skin infections were found to harbor C. auris within their ear canals.

The significance of this discovery lies in the potential role of dogs, both stray and domesticated, as carriers of C. auris and possible transmitters of the pathogen to humans and other animals. Professor Jianping Xu, the lead author of the study and a faculty member at McMaster University, emphasizes the need for vigilance in surveillance efforts involving dogs and other animals in regions where C. auris is endemic.

It is worth noting that while C. auris is highly transmissible among humans in close proximity, its transmission route among animals or from animals to humans remains unclear. Further investigation is required to fully understand this aspect.

Interestingly, C. auris was not found on the exposed skin of the dogs but within their ear canals. This may reduce the risk of environmental contamination and subsequent spread of infection since shedding of skin scales, a known mode of transmission in humans, would be minimized in this case.

The resilient nature of C. auris is also worth mentioning. It has been found on stored apples, in tidal marshes, in environments with extreme salinity, and even in wastewater. This suggests that the pathogen can survive in harsh conditions, further highlighting the importance of ongoing surveillance and research.

More information:
Anamika Yadav et al, Candida auris in Dog Ears, Journal of Fungi (2023). DOI: 10.3390/jof9070720

Provided by
McMaster University


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Researchers discover drug-resistant, often deadly pathogen living in dogs’ ears, creating concern it may jump to humans (2023, July 7)
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