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ByCaitlyn Stulpin Fact checked byCarol L. DiBerardino, MLA, ELS

A potential threat on the CDC’s radar is a fungal infection being transmitted by feral cats — initially in Brazil, but now in other countries as well.

Cats carry high loads of Sporothrix brasiliensis 
that are easily transmitted to other animals and humans.
Image: Adobe Stock

The CDC issued a warning last year about the potential threat of sporotrichosis in the U.S.

According to CDC, cats carry high loads of Sporothrix brasiliensis that are easily transmitted to other animals and humans via bites and scratches, contact with lesions, droplet exposure and inhalation.

“It’s super contagious, so you can imagine where it just took off in the feral cat population. There are hundreds of thousands of feral cats in these cities,” Tom M. Chiller, MD, MPHTM, chief of the CDC’s Mycotic Diseases Branch, told Healio, referring to the large cities in Brazil where it was first recognized. “Before you knew it, you saw this increase from 100 cases to 1,000 to hundreds of thousands of cases in cats.”

According to the CDC, sporotrichosis has spread across Brazil and other areas of South America but has not been identified in the U.S.

“A cat can shake its head and the spores can fly and land on your skin and you can become infected. That’s unheard of for these types of fungi,” Chiller said. “It’s a bit freaky that this organism has the ability now to be infectious in this other form. That concerns me.”

In 2022, researchers reported the first three cases of cat-transmitted sporotrichosis outside South America, occurring in the United Kingdom. According to the report, the first case was in an older woman with no history of recent travel to Brazil or immunosuppression who was scratched by a domestic cat. The second case occurred in the woman’s daughter, who also had no history of recent travel to Brazil but had been scratched by the same cat. The third case was in a healthy veterinarian who was scratched by the same cat during an exam at his veterinary practice.

The infections were “likely acquired from an indoor domestic cat which had previously lived in South-Eastern Brazil 3 years previously,” the authors concluded. “This suggests that S. brasiliensis can lay dormant for many years and has implications for global public health.”

The authors urged veterinarians to be vigilant in taking a travel history when seeing cats with unexplained lesions and for animal health authorities worldwide to reexamine border control policies to consider pre-import screening of cats from endemic areas.

According to Chiller, no human-to-human transmission has been documented yet.


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One response to “Cat-transmitted sporotrichosis: A looming threat?”

  1. I’ve had this type of Sporotrichosis since May 2023. At first my physician thought it was contact dermatitis prescribing me steroid ointment which can enhance growth in certain types of funguses in humans. Then I spent hours researching and diagnosed myself with sporotrichosis. My elderly outside cat also had sporotrichosis. He was seventeen years old eventually was very I’ll with the fungus and died. At first my doctor gave me the recommended anti-fungal for treatment. He did a culture test not specific enough showing no signs of fungus. Sent me to a dermatologist who did a punch biopsy still not fluorescent or sensitive enough. Again the test results showed up negative for fungus. The dermatologist recommended I stop taking the anti-fungal medication because nothing was wrong with me. It is March 26, 2024 I’ve still dealing with the parasites through a naturopath tinctures. She has been the only one willing to help me. I live in Spokane, WA do anyone have any advice for local medical treatment to finally rid myself completely of these parasites.

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