A 63-year-old man in Germany has died after contracting a rare bacterial infection. The cause of the infection was a licking from his dog. The case has prompted doctors to caution pet owners to be aware of any unusual symptoms.
The man was infected with capnocytophaga canimorsus, a bacteria founds in the saliva and gums of canines and cats, which can sometimes be transmitted to humans.
The case was reported last month in the European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine.
The report say that the unidentified 63-year-old man was healthy. He then came down with a fever, had trouble breathing, had noticeable leg pain, and a rash of purplish-red splotches found on his face and legs.
He was admitted to the intensive care unit when his organs started failing.
Even with the help of strong antibiotics and other efforts to save him, his condition declined rapidly.
His doctors were able to determine he'd been infected with a bacterium called Capnocytophaga canimorsus through blood tests. He had been touched and licked by his dog in recent weeks but not bitten or injured. His family and the doctors treating him decided to cease treatment and life support was turned off as the man succumbed to his infection 16 days after treatment began.
What is Capnocytophaga canimorsus?
Capnocytophaga germs are normal bacteria commonly found in the mouths of people, dogs, and cats. According to the CDC, capnocytophaga germs that are common in dogs and cats can be spread to people through a bite or after close contact with dogs or cats. Infections are more often linked to dog bites or dog contact.
These germs sometimes cause what they call opportunistic infections, which means under the right conditions they can cause an infection, such as in a person with a weakened immune system.
People with weakened immune systems include those who:
- Drink alcohol excessively
- Have had their spleens removed
- Have HIV infection or cancer
People with these conditions should speak with their doctors about how to safely interact with cats and dogs.
Typically, Capnocytophaga does not cause disease in humans, and most human contact with dogs and cats does not result in illness. However, in rare cases, people can develop illness from this infection.
Dogs are man’s best friend, but these recent reports have served as a reminder that our furry friends carry bacteria in their saliva that can cause disease, and even death, in humans.