Letting your dog lick your face risks spreading antibiotic resistance, a study has found.
People should also avoid kissing their pets, not letting them eat food off their plate and wash their hands after petting them or picking up their litter, experts said.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest problems facing humanity, as pathogens targeted by common drugs evolve to become impermeable and therefore more dangerous.
A Lancet study published earlier this year found that more than a million people died from so-called superbugs in 2019.
Overprescription and misuse have been cited as a major problem in the Western world, but there are growing concerns that pets may also act as a reservoir of disease.
Researchers from the Royal Veterinary College and the University of Lisbon took stool samples once a month for four months from 114 healthy people, 85 dogs and 18 cats.
Genetic analysis revealed any signs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria or genes from said microorganisms.
Fifteen pets and 15 humans were carriers of a worrying bacterium. Half of infected animals had an antibiotic-resistant strain, as did a third of people, who had developed resistance to penicillin and other treatments.
The findings, presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon, also showed that pets and owners share insects with each other.
“One of the greatest threats to public health”
Dr Juliana Menezes, lead author of the University of Lisbon study, said: “Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, antibiotic resistance was one of the biggest threats to public health because it can create conditions such as pneumonia, sepsis, urinary tract and wound infections. incurable.
“Although the level of household sharing we studied is low, healthy carriers can shed bacteria in their environment for months, and they can be a source of infection for other more vulnerable people and animals such as elderly and pregnant women.
“Previous studies have linked factors of close contact between pets and their owners to the sharing of bacteria (resistant or not).
“These risk factors include kissing, licking the owner’s face, or eating from the owner’s plate. To reduce the spread of these bacteria within the household, this close relationship between owners and their pets should be reduced, and also have more important hygiene practices.
“Knowing that the bacteria we studied are found colonizing the gastrointestinal tract, transmission is via the faecal-oral route, so good hygiene practices on the part of owners would help reduce sharing, such as washing the hands after picking up dog droppings, or even after petting them.