Cat bites can lead to severe infections- Study

Being bitten or clawed by your pet cat is no fun. It, in fact, is potentially dangerous and could land you in hospital, warns a new study by the Mayo Clinic.

According to the latest findings, one in every three persons with a cat bite to the hand ends up hospitalized, with two-thirds of them ending up with surgery requirement.

The research from Mayo Clinic also suggests cat bites to humans are highly infectious and can lead to deep-tissue and joint infection. In the study, somewhat unsurprisingly, middle-aged women were found to be mostly bitten by a kitty.

Although a feline’s mouth harbors lesser bacteria than a dog’s mouth, its sharp canine teeth allow it to puncture a person’s skin and inject germs deeper into the skin.

“The dogs’ teeth are blunter, so they don’t tend to penetrate as deeply and they tend to leave a larger wound after they bite. The cats’ teeth are sharp and they can penetrate very deeply, they can seed bacteria in the joint and tendon sheaths,” explains senior author of the study, Brian Carlsen, MD, a Mayo Clinic plastic surgeon and orthopedic hand surgeon. “It can be just a pinpoint bite mark that can cause a real problem, because the bacteria get into the tendon sheath or into the joint where they can grow with relative protection from the blood and immune system.”

For the purpose of the study, Carlsen and colleagues looked at 193 bite cases in mayo Clinic between 2009 and 2011. Of the studies patients, nearly 70 percent were women and their average age was 49 years.

The research team found 57 of the patients were hospitalized because the antibiotics didn’t work on them, with the average stay three days. Of those hospitalized, 38 needed to have their infected tissue surgically removed, or wounds flushed out.

The mean time between the bite and medical attention sought by the patients was 27 hours, Carlson says.

It is found that patients who had been bitten by cats directly over the wrist or any joint in the hand were more likely to get hospitalized than those with bites over soft tissue.

The takeaway message of the findings is that physicians and victims of cat bites to the hand should take the wounds seriously and cautiously evaluate the signs of infection, such as swelling and skin inflammation, suggest the study authors.

The Mayo Clinic findings appear in the Journal of Hand Surgery.

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