Guinea pigs are making people ill, a new report states.
In three years, at least as many people have been taken to hospital after developing life-threatening pneumonia from their furry friends.
Most guinea pigs likely harbour the bacteria responsible for the inflammatory lung condition, which is detectable by the animals developing pink eye.
Dr Steven Gordon, chair of infectious disease at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘We love our pets, but we’ve got to be smart about pets and hygiene.
‘We should be washing our hands after pet contact, and certain high-risk people – like those with compromised immune systems – should avoid contact with pets.’
In three years, at least as many people have developed pneumonia from guinea pigs
STEROIDS IN INHALERS PUT ASTHMATICS AT RISK OF PNEUMONIA
Asthma sufferers may be at risk of pneumonia if they use an inhaler, research revealed in April.
Their risk of being hospitalised with the potentially-fatal complication is 83 per cent higher than non-inhaler users’, according to the research carried out by McGill University in Montreal.
Breathing in steroids found in prevention inhalers is thought to be to blame.
Around 5.4 million people in the UK are being treated for asthma.
Steroid-containing inhalers are commonly prescribed to control inflammation in the airways.
Three taken to hospital
Researchers from Bernhoven Hospital found three cases of guinea pig-related pneumonia have occurred in the Netherlands over approximately three years.
The incidences involved two women and one man, all in their early 30s.
Out of the three cases, two patients were submitted to intensive care. They both had guinea pigs as pets who had recently shown respiratory symptoms.
The man had two guinea pigs, while one of the female patients had 25. The other woman worked in a vet clinic where she cared for guinea pigs suffering from pink eye and nasal inflammation.
Patient samples revealed the presence of bacteria associated with pneumonia. In one of the individuals, this bacteria could be traced back to their specific guinea pig.
The report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
‘We’ve got to be smart about pets and hygiene’
Lead author Dr Bart Ramakers said: ‘Doctors and veterinarians should be aware of the bacterium, especially now that we have demonstrated that it can be transmitted from guinea pigs to humans.
‘The bacterium also has been detected in rabbits, dogs and horses.’
Antibiotics are effective in treating pneumonia, however, most healthy people get over the infection without the need for treatment
Dr Gordon said: ‘Many guinea pig owners are exposed to this pathogen, but few are going to develop symptoms to the point of needing hospitalization.’
He recommends people seek treatment for their guinea pig if the animal appears ill, particularly if it shows signs of pink eye or respiratory illness.
Dr Gordon added: ‘We love our pets, but we’ve got to be smart about pets and pet hygiene.
‘We should be washing our hands after pet contact, and certain high-risk people -like those with compromised immune systems – should avoid contact with pets.’