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Zoonoses research in the German National Cohort : feasibility of parallel sampling of pets and owners

Katja Hille, Nadine Möbius, Manas K Akmatov, Jutta Verspohl, Denise Rabold, Maria Hartmann, Kathrin Günther, Nadia Obi, Lothar Kreienbrock
Bundesgesundheitsblatt, Gesundheitsforschung, Gesundheitsschutz 2014, 57 (11): 1277-82
25267317
Cats and dogs live in more than 20 % of German households and the contact between these pets and their owners can be very close. Therefore, a transmission of zoonotic pathogens may occur. To investigate whether zoonotic research questions can be examined in the context of population-based studies like the German National Cohort (GNC), two studies on different study populations were conducted as part of the feasibility tests of the GNC. The aim of the first study was to quantify the actual exposure of participants of the GNC to cats and dogs. In the second study summarised here the feasibility of the sampling of cats and dogs by their owners was tested. To quantify the exposure of participants of the GNC to cats and dogs 744 study participants of the Pretests of the GNC were asked whether they had contact with animals. Currently 10 % have a dog and 14 % have a cat in their household. These figures confirm that a large proportion of the German population has contact with pets and that there is a need for further zoonoses research. To establish the collection of biological samples from cats and dogs in the context of large-scale population-based studies feasible methods are needed. Therefore, a study was conducted to test whether pet owners can take samples from their cats and dogs and whether the quality of these samples is comparable to samples taken by a qualified veterinarian. A total of 82 dog and 18 cat owners were recruited in two veterinary practices in Hannover and the Clinic for Small Animals at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover. Sampling instructions and sample material for nasal and buccal swabs, faecal samples and, in the case of cat owners, a brush for fur samples, were given to the pet owners. The pet owners were asked to take the samples from their pets at home and to send the samples by surface mail. Swab samples were cultured and bacterial growth was quantified independent of bacterial species. The growth of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria from samples taken by the veterinarian and the pet owners were compared. For Gram-positive bacteria the agreement of laboratory results was 71 % for nasal swabs and 78 % for oral swabs while for Gram-negative bacteria the agreement of laboratory results was 55 % for nasal swabs and 87 % for oral swabs. In conclusion it has been shown that participants of the GNC are exposed to cats and dogs and that the sampling of cats and dogs by their owners is a feasible method which can be a useful tool for zoonoses research in population-based studies.

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