Study: Cat Bites May Cause Deep-Tissue, Joint Infections That Could Need Surgery

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – The findings of a new study indicate that bites from cats could cause joint and deep-tissue infections in those who suffer them.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that bites from the domesticated animals lead to severe infections, Health Newsline is reporting. A third of the time, the complications from cat bites are reportedly severe enough to necessitate surgery.

Those involved in the study said that the sharpness of a cat’s teeth allows the bacteria in its mouth to penetrate further beneath the skin, making their bites more dangerous than dog bites, despite their mouths being somewhat cleaner.

“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,” senior author Dr. Brian Carlsen was quoted as saying.

He continued, “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.”

A reported 193 cat bite cases that occurred between 2009 and 2011 were monitored for the study. Of those subjects, 57 of them were hospitalized after antibiotics proved ineffective, and 38 had to have surgery in order to remove the infected tissue.

Researchers urged those who suffer cat bites to take their injuries seriously, and to seek treatment as soon as possible. Those who are bitten should look for skin inflammation and other signs of infection, Health Newsline additionally  learned.

The study was published in the Journal of Hand Surgery.


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