Strep throat infections kept recurring despite antibiotics – The Washington Post – Old Towne Veterinary Clinic

Levitis, an evolutionary biologist who was then an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin, remembered, “It appeared as though the entire family was on antibiotics, had recently ceased taking antibiotics, or was experiencing a recurrence of strep throat.”

Two children tested positive for strep after visiting Iris two weeks following New Year’s. All three children had strep and Iris had shown rapid strep tests on New Year’s Day.

The Levitis family, from left: Dan, Tigerlily, Kestrel, Iris and Peregrine, plus Umberto the cat.
The Levitis family, from left: Dan, Tigerlily, Kestrel, Iris and Peregrine, plus Umberto the cat. (Family photo)

Finding medical professionals who took his controversial hypothesis seriously posed a challenge. However, Levitis started suspecting that the source of the recurring infection was within their household, which resulted in several additional episodes of strep over the subsequent three months.

The circular rotation contagion ceased once the potential origin of repetitive strep was addressed. Levitis succeeded in discovering an open-minded audience following an exploration.

Strep again.

Peregrine, who is 14 months old, tested positive for strep, so his wife contacted him to inform him that all three of their children were also positive for strep and they were all taking antibiotics.

Four months before the first outbreak, the family had adopted Umberto, a 3-year-old cat.
Four months before the first outbreak, the family had adopted Umberto, a 3-year-old cat. (Family Photo)

Levitis, who had been battling a sore throat for several days since leaving Madison, called his doctor and was prescribed an antibiotic. He was also presumed to have strep because the rest of his family was infected.

After a course of antibiotics, everyone appeared to heal.

Strep tested the entire family’s throats, revealing cultures that indicated sore throats. His daughters complained of sore throats, but this occurred five weeks later.

The doctor prescribed a distinct antibiotic on this occasion. After three weeks, the visit on New Year’s Day took place. However, the triumph was fleeting; the infection appeared to have resolved within a couple of days.

His wife reminded him and Levitis that they had been using the toothbrushes, including replacements, and had been following sanitation measures. She also emphasized the importance of completing the full course of antibiotics.

At the end of January, all three kids tested positive. Tigerlily and Kestrel had strep again on January 16th, but two weeks later.

Levitis recalled that there was something wrong in their house, and he suspected that he was getting strep from daycare or school, but nobody was aware of it. We were painfully aware that something was done with this.

She informed him about a family she had encountered who continued to contract strep until they eliminated their pet feline. Levitis contacted his mother, a former pediatrician who had worked in a suburban area of Maryland, to seek guidance.

Before the initial outbreak occurred, the family had introduced Umberto, a 3-year-old grey cat, into their home from a nearby family, four months earlier.

“I began examining the scientific literature, and all the information indicated that cats cannot spread strep,” Levitis remembered.

Levitis, a veterinarian, questioned his cousin about the possibility of cats transmitting strep while he inquired with their doctors, his wife mentioned.

Levitis mentioned, “remove the cat, however, if you desire to ensure safety, there is no proof that felines can transmit strep to humans. They all essentially stated the identical fact: ‘There is no evidence that cats can transmit strep to humans.”

“And we were uncertain about his guilt,” Levitis stated. “He is very affectionate and tolerant with our children and an exceptional companion,” they all admired Umberto; that appeared inconceivable.

Although there are diseases that cats can transmit to people, such as ringworm and cat scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, and strep throat, it is not believed to be caused by the bacteria Streptococcus.

“There is no evidence to support this claim. The American Veterinary Medical Association noted in a 2002 report that sometimes doctors blame pets, specifically dogs and cats, for recurrent strep throat in children.”

A previous president of the association concluded, “Instruct your children with Strep[tococcus] to refrain from kissing the cat as there is additional proof that animals temporarily harbor group A Strep[tococcus] solely when exposed to an infected individual.”

Dogs and cats can infect humans with a strain of strep called canis, which is usually transmitted through a bite and present in the animal’s saliva.

Iris Levitis asked their vet whether Umberto, a case in which he seemed healthy and there was no reason to swab the throat of a healthy person, refused to undergo a strep test that could potentially require him to be connected to oxygen and given general anesthesia.

A tantalizing case

Levitis, a frustrated scientist, said that reports published suggested a rare scenario in which a cat might harbor strep cases. He seemed willing to consider the possibility, but there was no such willingness from others.

In 2007, a letter published in the Proceedings of the Mayo Clinic described a similar experience by the Levitis family, whose three young children developed recurrent strep. Simultaneously, they and their cat were treated with antibiotics by an internist in Pennsylvania.

The Levitises contacted several veterinary clinics to inquire about testing Umberto, but all of them declined.

“We pondered dispensing the medication ourselves,” Levitis recalled, but “came to the conclusion that it was an imprudent choice.”

The couple was discussing the plethora of medical resources available in Madison, including a large and respected college of veterinary medicine. After they got home, Kestrel, their 3-year-old, got strep throat along with respiratory syncytial virus, which led to a two-day hospitalization due to resulting pneumonia in early March.

Iris had a brilliant idea of calling the university’s animal hospital to try and talk to an expert there. She thought that the academic center might be more receptive to the hypothesis of the cat than the community vets. Maybe a couple of them would be interested.

She handed her husband his pitch for the phone. Caitlin Barry-Heffernan, a fourth-year internal veterinary medicine resident, was talking up the wound.

“I discussed it as a research example,” Levitis stated, “not as an individual who contracted strep throat from their feline companion.”

An unusual throat culture

Barry-Heffernan, who currently practices in Southfield, Mich., Near Detroit, remembered, “We were all somewhat doubtful.” She noted that it is unusual for felines to harbor strep A since the bacteria “does not prefer to reside on animals.”

But she was intrigued by the possibility and persuaded by Levitis. He was scientifically knowledgeable and “it was a pretty believable circumstance.”.

Barry-Heffernan remembered, “She had a lot of doubts,” but acknowledged that “we should have the ability to cultivate it if it exists.” Barry-Heffernan mentioned that she strolled down the corridor to seek advice from an experienced microbiologist.

Therefore, Barry-Heffernan instructed Levitis to bring his feline companion in for a throat examination.

Oxygen or anesthesia was not necessary. His throat was swabbed quickly and they said he seemed “perfectly healthy” in a nearby room, as Barry-Heffernan, the student vet, was seen by Umberto. The entire family was taking antibiotics for several months due to a strep infection, while on April 4th.

“Umberto was a truly pleasant feline,” she reminisced, so the process wasn’t challenging.

During Levitis’s latest throat culture, it seemed to correspond to the strain of strep collected in the cat’s throat; the surprise was that group A strep was discovered in the veterinary school staff.

Barry-Heffernan stated, “Undoubtedly, Umberto was a significant factor in the family’s infections.” She recommended a disinfectant spray for his fur and prescribed antibiotics for the cat. The Levitis family received another dosage of antibiotics.

The house was cleaned by professionals once again, and Umberto received his medication while they were away. Shortly after, they departed on a two-week trip to Costa Rica that had been planned in advance.

Since that time, Levitis stated, nobody has contracted strep.

Barry-Heffernan mentioned that it was quite simple to tackle once we pinpointed Umberto as a carrier. It most likely originated in a human; it appears probable that the infection was being transmitted between the asymptomatic cat and different members of the family. There is no proof that animals can transmit the virus to humans; likewise, the limited number of cats and dogs known to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus are believed to have contracted it from humans.

Heffernan-Barry said that she hopes the unusual case of Levitises doesn’t cause their pets to get rid of easily, as she noted that it was very easily treated.

Umberto, who now lives in Northern California with his family, said he is convinced that treating the cat’s infection had bedeviled his family.