PRO/AH/EDR> Globicatella – UK: cat bite, soft tissue infection


A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

[1] Date: Mon 31 Jul 2023
Source: Gizmodo [edited]

A man in the UK has become a medical first, though not in a great way.
In a recent paper, scientists say he’s the 1st known person to have
caught a newly discovered bacterium from a stray cat’s bite. Though
the feline encounter resulted in a gnarly infection of his hands, the
man was eventually treated successfully and made a full recovery.

The case was detailed in the August [2023] issue of the journal
Emerging Infectious Diseases [see item 2]. According to the paper, the
48-year-old man visited doctors with painful swelling in both hands,
merely 8 hours after he was bitten multiple times by a single feral
cat. The man’s wounds were cleaned and dressed, he was given a
precautionary tetanus booster, and he was sent home with antibiotics.

Unfortunately, he returned to the emergency department just 24 hours
later as his infection continued to worsen. This time, doctors
surgically removed the man’s dead and infected tissue and placed him
on intravenous antibiotics. Following another course of oral
antibiotics, he made a full recovery.

In trying to figure out the exact cause of the man’s infection, the
authors found microbes inside his wounds that resembled
Streptococcus, a well-known group of bacteria that occasionally
sicken people. But upon closer examination, the likely culprit didn’t
have a direct genetic match to any known species of bacteria. The team
then decided to sequence the bacteria’s entire genome and finally
determined that the man had contracted a wholly novel germ.

The bacterium seems to be a member of the genus Globicatella. Until
now, 2 species of Globicatella bacteria have been identified, with
only one species known to rarely cause human disease. Cases of human
Globicatella infection have caused some concern since the bacteria
have shown reduced susceptibility to some commonly used antibiotics.
But thankfully, most of the antibiotics that the authors tested
against this new species in the lab did appear effective.

While this case has a happy ending, the authors say it’s a cautionary
tale. Cuddly as cats can be, their bites and scratches should be taken
seriously, especially if they pierce the skin. It isn’t just the
potential germs in a cat’s mouth or paws that make these bites and
scratches dangerous, but the delivery method. A cat’s claws and teeth
can cause small but deep puncture wounds, which then seal up quickly
and trap bacteria under the skin. These dangers are all the more
elevated for people with weakened immune systems, including the
elderly (in this case, the man seemed to have normal immune

“In conclusion, cat bites are common sources of zoonotic infection.
This report highlights the role of cats as reservoirs of as yet
undiscovered bacterial species that have human pathogenic potential,”
the authors wrote.

Cat bites in general should be cleaned immediately with running water
and soap. People should also see a doctor as soon as possible since
serious infections can arise within 24 hours or sooner.

[Byline: Ed Cara]

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