Unusual patient case: men grew plague bumps from germs of their own domestic cat

Unusual patient case: men grew plague bumps from germs of their own domestic cat

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Bacteria cause plague-like bumps to grow in the cat owner

A 68-year-old man took care of his sick cat. The veterinarian diagnosed cat leukemia without confirming it through laboratory tests. The veterinarian gave the man the medication prednisone to treat his cat, which he administered to his pet at home. The cat died a short time later. Two days later, the 68-year-old began to develop swelling like swelling on the right side of the neck, which he used to go to the hospital. The doctors diagnosed that his cat had infected him with tularemia.

Plagued by fever and huge painful plague-like swellings on the neck, the 68-year-old American from Missouri introduced himself at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. The doctors found Francisella tularensis bacteria in a blood test. These can trigger the zoonosis tularemia. Zoonoses are diseases that can spread from animals to humans. The case was recently published in the "New England Journal of Medicine".

Infected by your own domestic cat

Apparently the deceased cat had caught the bacteria and transferred them to their owner. "Domestic cats can become infected by eating contaminated prey and transmit the bacteria to humans," the doctors write in the description of the disease. The patient was treated with the antibiotic doxycycline for four weeks, after which the symptoms improved.

What is tularemia?

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), tularemia is an infectious disease caused by very resistant bacteria of the Francisella tularensis type. The subspecies common in North America can cause very violent disease courses, which are fatal in around 60 percent of cases. The germs common in Europe are a little less dangerous, but can also cause serious clinical pictures. According to the RKI, the North American pathogens belong to risk group 3 and are even classified as a potential biological weapon pathogen.

What are the symptoms of tularemia?

As the RKI reports, the symptoms of tularemia are non-specific. Flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, lymph node swelling, chills and general malaise often occur. There are also deviations in the clinical picture, which depend on the way in which the germs got into the body. In the current case, it was a glandular (caused by skin contact) tularemia. In this form, strong local lymph node swellings are typical, which may show suppuration and necrosis.

How common is tularemia?

Between 100 and 200 cases of tularemia are registered in the United States each year. "In Germany, between 20 and 30 cases of this disease, which has to be reported according to the IfSG, have been sent to the RKI annually in the past few years," RKI experts report in a guide to the disease. However, it is likely that the actual number of cases is much higher.

Where do the pathogens occur?

The RKI experts report that the tularemia pathogen can spread in many different hosts. These include, for example, small mammals such as rabbits, rabbits or mice, but also wild animals and pets such as cats can absorb the pathogen. Furthermore, the bacteria can be found in blood-sucking insects such as brakes, mosquitoes and ticks.

How to get infected with tularemia

"Francisella tularensis is a highly infectious agent," write the RKI doctors. Ten pathogens can already cause tularemia. The disease can be transmitted from animals to humans. However, a person-to-person transmission is not known. You can get infected with tularemia in the following ways:

  • Skin or mucous membrane contact with infected animals or their excretions,
  • Consuming contaminated meat that has not been heated sufficiently
  • Drinking contaminated water,
  • Inhalation of contaminated dust (e.g. when mowing the lawn or doing hay),
  • Stings and bites from contaminated blood-sucking insects.


Author and source information

Video: What Deadly Diseases Look Like On Your Body (May 2022).


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