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Parasites in cat faeces can cause gastro and neurological infections, shows Mumbai study

More than two-thirds of the faecal samples indicated at least one parasitic infestation and one in three samples showing infection by multiple parasites

mumbai Updated: Nov 09, 2017 10:25 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
Bombay Veterinary College,Mumbai News,Mumbai cats
While international and national studies have shown cats carry the parasites in their digestive system, this is the first such study in Mumbai.

Domestic cats in the city carry parasites that can cause gastrointestinal and neurological infections if passed on to humans, shows a study conducted in the city.

Researchers from Bombay Veterinary College and Maharashtra Animal and Fishery Sciences University, Parel, studied faecal samples of 72 cats admitted to the veterinary hospital run by the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA), Mumbai, between August 2012 and October 2012.

The study, Prevalence of Gastrointestinal Parasites with Special Reference to Zoonotic Parasites in Domestic Cats (Felis catus) in Mumbai, Maharashtra, was published in Journal Of Veterinary Public Health in October 2017

The highest concentration of parasites was for ancylostoma spp, a species of hookworm, which was found in 52.78% of the faecal samples, followed by toxocara cati , a feline roundworm, at 26.38%. The hookworm can cause malnutrition and anaemia in children, which can affect mental and physical development. Other parasites found were isospora revolta (18.05%), isospora felis (13.89%), taenia spp (4.16%) and spirometra spp (2.7%). 

More than two-thirds of the faecal samples indicated at least one parasitic infestation and one in three samples showing infection by multiple parasites. While international and national studies have shown cats carry the parasites in their digestive system, this is the first such study conducted in Mumbai.

“Gastrointestinal parasites represent major health problems because of the proximity between felines and children.This study was planned keeping in mind the scarcity of information about the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites in the city’s cats,” said Dr Shree Malkar, one of the researchers and a veterinarian.

Hookworm infected around 428 million individuals worldwide in 2015, with a higher incidence among children. Apart from cats, other animals also host the parasite.

Dr Deepa Katyal a veterinarian from the city, said parasites get transmitted when humans come in contact with infected animal faeces. “Most of the time it takes place while cleaning the droppings and accidentally eating food without washing hands properly. As children play with pets, parasites are likely to enter their bodies easily,” said Katyal.

However, veterinarians said the study should not alarm pet owners because deworming cats and keeping hygienic conditions can prevent transmission of these parasites. Katyal said she frequently attends to cases where cat owners or those who spend time with felines complain of allergies and infections. “While the infections are subjective in humans, depending on the immunity level and pre-existing conditions, maintaining hygiene, litter management and frequent deworming of cats and caretakers are extremely important to avoid infections,” said Katyal.

Public health experts said the study was significant, especially because of the presence of stray cats in public hospitals. Dr Om Srivastava, an infectious diseases expert, said all the mentioned parasites can cause severe complications of the gut and some of them affect the eyes, spine and brain as well. “These parasites, after entering the body, largely stay in an asymptomatic stage where the patient becomes a carrier. But it is known to cause severe complications in patients with low immunity,” said Srivastava.

This study has been undertaken in Jammu, Mizoram, Guwahati and Bangalore with similar results.

First Published: Nov 09, 2017 10:24 IST