A bug that causes us vomiting and diarrhoea may also infect our canine companions, thereby raising the possibility of dog-to-human transmission, says a new study.
The research showed that some dogs can mount an immune response to norovirus, the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans.
"This strongly suggests that these dogs have been infected with the virus. We also confirmed that human norovirus can bind to the cells of the canine gut, which is the first step required for infection of cells," explained first author Sarah Caddy, veterinarian and PhD student at the University of Cambridge.
However, Caddy noted that it is not clear just how much of a problem canine infection and transmission may represent for humans.
Despite dogs' apparent susceptibility, the investigators failed to find norovirus in canine stool samples, including those from dogs with diarrhoea. They found it in serum samples of only about one seventh of 325 dogs tested.
"I am often asked by dog owners if they might be able to pass infections onto their dogs, or if their dogs are contagious to them," Caddy said.
"There are plenty of anecdotal cases of dogs and humans in the same household, having simultaneous gastroenteritis, but very little rigorous scientific research is conducted in this area," Caddy noted.
"Until more definitive data is available, sensible hygiene precautions should be taken around pets, especially when gastroenteritis in either humans or dogs is present in a household," Caddy suggested.
The study appeared in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.