Between 1986 and 2008 Streptococcus pneumoniae was isolated from 41 pets/zoo animals (guinea pigs (n = 17), cats (n = 12), horses (n = 4), dogs (n = 3), dolphins (n = 2), rat (n = 2), gorilla (n = 1)) treated in medical veterinary laboratories and zoos, and 44 laboratory animals (mastomys (multimammate mice; n = 32), mice (n = 6), rats (n = 4), guinea pigs (n = 2)) during routine health monitoring in an animal facility. S. pneumoniae was isolated from nose, lung and respiratory tract, eye, ear and other sites.
Carriage of the same isolate of S. pneumoniae over a period of up to 22 weeks was shown for four mastomys. Forty-one animals showed disease symptoms. Pneumococcal isolates were characterized by optochin sensitivity, bile solubility, DNA hybridization, pneumolysin PCR, serotyping and multilocus sequence typing. Eighteen of the 32 mastomys isolates (56%) were optochin resistant, all other isolates were optochin susceptible. All mastomys isolates were serotype 14, all guinea pig isolates serotype 19F, all horse isolates serotype 3. Rats had serotypes 14 or 19A, mice 33A or 33F. Dolphins had serotype 23F, the gorilla serotype 14. Cats and dogs had many different serotypes. Four isolates were resistant to macrolides, three isolates also to clindamycin and tetracyclin. Mastomys isolates were sequence type (ST) 15 (serotype 14), an ST/serotype combination commonly found in human isolates. Cats, dogs, pet rats, gorilla and dolphins showed various human ST/serotype combinations. Lab rats and lab mice showed single locus variants (SLV) of human STs, in human ST/serotype combinations. All guinea pig isolates showed the same completely new combination of known alleles. The horse isolates showed an unknown allele combination and three new alleles.
The isolates found in mastomys, mice, rats, cats, dogs, gorilla and dolphins are most likely identical to human pneumococcal isolates. Isolates from guinea pigs and horses appear to be specialized clones for these animals. Our data redraw attention to the fact that pneumococci are not strictly human pathogens. Pet animals that live in close contact to humans, especially children, can be infected by human isolates and also carriage of even resistant isolates is a realistic possibility.