A case recently received by our Auckland laboratory provided a good reminder that it’s always important to be aware of zoonoses when handling both patients and diagnostic samples.
We don’t always get excited by skin scrapings, but a recent submission from a dog with severe skin disease did get us all a twitter, and even scratching. The wonderful submitting veterinarian alerted us to the potential for a zoonotic condition. Her clinical suspicion was spot on, as the skin scrape contained numerous Sarcoptes scabiei mites (see image), most of which were still very much alive and kicking.
Risk of contracting a zoonotic infection is generally low, and we always exercise appropriate caution in the laboratory to further limit this risk. However, it never hurts to provide laboratory staff with some additional advanced notice if you do suspect a zoonotic condition (e.g. leptospirosis, chlamydia, scabies etc.). This not only helps keep laboratory staff safe, but may also serve as a reminder to refresh staff on what signs and symptoms may indicate a need to exercise additional caution with handling of some patients and samples.