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CVM Joins FDA Investigation of Salmonella in dogs, cats

Researchers at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have joined forces with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to study the prevalence of Salmonella infections in pet dogs and cats.

Dr. Siddhartha Thakur, assistant professor in the Department of Population Health and Pathobiology and a member of the Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research (CCMTR), is the principal investigator of the study at NC State.

Dr. Thakur studies food borne pathogens in animals and humans, with a special focus on bacteria resistant to antibiotic therapy. The Thakur Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory will conduct the Salmonella testing in the study for the samples collected by the NC State research team.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria which can contaminate a variety of food products, and is a common cause of food borne illness or food poisoning in humans. Infection with Salmonella, a condition called salmonellosis, causes gastrointestinal disease and can be severe or life threatening in some individuals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40,000 cases of human salmonellosis are reported in the United States each year. Animals can also be infected with Salmonella bacteria, including farm animals, horses, and household pets.      

In recent years, a number of human Salmonella infections have been traced to contamination of pet treats and pet foods. In an effort to characterize the extent of pet infections and the potential impact on public health, the FDA launched a national study program through the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network.                           

The national study will involve the cooperation of 11 veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the United States. Each laboratory will partner with veterinary colleges and veterinary practices in order to collect fecal samples from pet dogs and cats for Salmonella testing. The data gathered in this study will be collectively analyzed to determine the national prevalence of Salmonella in pet dogs and cats, and also identify potential risk factors of infection among such things as diet, medical history, and home environment.                                                                                    

The NC State research team includes co-investigator Dr. Kimberly Chappell, a clinical assistant professor, and the CCMTR Clinical Studies Core. The Clinical Studies Core will coordinate collection of data and fecal samples from dogs and cats visiting the NC State University Veterinary Health Complex, and also several nearby veterinary practices.      

Local veterinary practices were instrumental in securing the study funding from FDA. NC State received support in the application process from several area practices, including the Care First Animal Hospitals in Raleigh and Morrisville and the Mayfair Animal Hospital in Cary. Veterinary professionals at these hospitals will identify patients for the study, collect samples, and administer a questionnaire to pet owners.                                                 

The goal of the NC State team is to collect at least 100 samples from pet dogs, and nearly as many from cats. The team will target half of the samples to be from healthy dogs and cats, with the remaining samples coming from dogs or cats showing signs of gastrointestinal disease, such as diarrhea.                                                                                

This study represents a unique opportunity for a national collaboration between a federal agency and the veterinary profession in the interest of public health. The data generated in this study will aid veterinarians and public health officials to better understand the risk posed by Salmonella infections in pets, and direct further study in the prevention of salmonellosis in humans and pets. 

For more information about this study or Salmonella, contact Dr. Thakur at sthakur@ncsu.edu.

Posted Dec. 7, 2011