Earlier this week, the Center for Diagnosis and Research of Infectious Diseases of the University of Valparaíso (CDIEI-UV) confirmed the first case of a person infected with the fungus Sporothrix brasiliensis in Chile.
This Brazilian pathogen primarily affects cats, which in turn can transmit it to humans and other animals.
The recently confirmed case involves a 59-year-old woman living in Concón, in the Valparaíso region. As the CDIEI explained, the patient was diagnosed with sporotrichosis, an infection that causes skin lesions and is caused by the fungus. The woman said her pet cat, who was in contact with other cats in the neighborhood, had the same skin changes.
After the veterinary check, the cat was euthanized due to health complications.
How does this fungus get infected in cats? Is it that risky? How to prevent spread in cats? Are there treatments to treat the infection? The third discussed these issues with a specialist. He said that.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), until the 1990s, S. brasiliensis was only identified in southeastern Brazil, near Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. In the years that followed, the fungus began to spread rapidly to other areas of the country. It has also been identified in Argentina and Paraguay.
Guisela Acuña, veterinarian from the Veterinary Care Network of the Faculty of Veterinary and Livestock Sciences (Favet) of the University of Chile and specialist in internal medicine of domestic cats, assures that “suspected cases to clinical cases (in Chile) last at least four years”. as the fungus may have been involved in lesions in kittens.
S. brasiliensis has been found to inhabit soils where there are accumulations of vegetation that are generally in a state of decomposition and where conditions are favorable for fungal spores.
Specifically, the Brazilian fungus causes an infection called sporotrichosis, which leads to skin lesions in either animals or humans. The CDC explains that in cats, sores usually appear in the nasal area.
How does this pathogen become infected? One possibility is that cats have wounds or cuts that have come in contact with these floors. At the same time, it can also be spread by a cat carrying the disease scratching or biting another cat.
“Once a cat is infected, it can infect a human or other animal. However, this only happens under certain conditions: for example, a wound that comes into contact with the kittens’ injuries, their bites or scratches,” explains Acuña. A healthy cat should not be at risk of contracting or infecting its owner.
Although the presence of S. brasiliensis is a cause for concern, the doctor emphasizes two points: the low prevalence of this disease and the possibility of implementing prevention strategies.
“There are many other diseases that are more common and that cats can also contract when they go outside. We call for keeping calm, but always complying with preventive measures, we should always keep that in mind,” says Acuña.
According to the veterinarian, adopting a cat or taking the cat we already have for a short walk does not mean that the risk of contracting sporotrichosis, the infection caused by S. brasiliensis, increases. “At the moment there is no evidence that homeless kittens living on the streets are a major focus of the disease.”
The key to avoiding problems is preventive measures, which are part of “responsible coexistence”.
For the professional, the most important thing is that the cats are indoors, which means that they are raised and owned only inside the home. While this is to prevent them from contracting this and other diseases, it must also be done because of the dangers they face abroad, such as being run over, poisoned and hunted.
Other measures include “enriching their environment, getting their vaccinations and deworming up to date.” That’s just for the fact that you have a cat. It’s something that will help us prevent many diseases, including this fungus,” says Acuña.
The doctor also emphasizes that the cats should be taken to the vet at least once a year to find out if there may be an incipient illness that has not been recognized by the pet owners.
Infection with this fungus can be controlled in both cats and humans with the use of an antifungal drug called itraconazole if caught early.
The U. de Chile Veterinary Care Network specialist mentions that, at least in cats, the treatment “lasts longer than the usual duration of this drug.” These are doses that are usually slightly higher.”
Since this disease also leaves lesions on the skin, the bacteria in the wounds may also need to be treated. “It can be antibiotics if there is a need, or painkillers if there is pain. “It’s important that cats are always monitored,” says the doctor.
The specialist points out that it is important to pay attention to the behavior of kittens beyond the possible presence of S. brasiliensis infection. And it usually happens with them that they don’t immediately show signs of illness because “depending on the species, they tend to hide them.”
“If we notice that he’s not showing his normal behavior or that he’s withdrawn, that’s reason enough to see a doctor not just about the fungus, but other more common illnesses he may have,” concludes Acuña.