Rare bacteria finds its way into cat's eye

23:48, Oct 04 2012
Isabella Spratt and Charlotte Brebner
OPERATION LOUIS: Isabella Spratt and her mother Charlotte Brebner are fundraising to pay for their cat Louis’ medical bills. He had a very rare bacterial infection in his eye. The entire right eye had to be removed on Wednesday.

A family is having to fundraise after an extremely rare bacterial eye infection struck their cat - and left them facing a $4000 medical bill.

He looks like a perfectly happy ginger moggy but there's something nasty lurking in Louis' right eye.

He has a rare mycobacterial infection of the cornea. It's the same family of bacteria that causes tuberculosis in humans.

Exactly how he got it is a bit of a mystery but the bacteria usually enters through a wound, according to his specialist Peter Collinson of the Auckland Animal Eye Centre in Mt Wellington, Auckland.

Louis' owner, 14-year-old Isabella Spratt of Orakei, noticed a discolouration slowly growing across Louis' eyeball three months ago.

Her mother Charlotte Brebner is a registered nurse and when the growth started to encroach on his pupil, she decided it needed veterinary attention.


Collinson could find only a couple of cases worldwide of a corneal mycobacterial infection in a cat.

"It's usually something you see as a skin lesion on animals, not on the eye."

On Wednesday the entire eye was removed to try to contain the infection. A sample was sent to a lab and Collinson hopes to discover exactly which mycobacterium it is.

"It will cost nearly $4000 in the end, for the biopsy, consultations, tests and the operation," Brebner says. "I can't bankroll that."

Collinson says the infection was "chewing through" the eye and it would have ruptured if not removed.

"There's a small chance the infection has already spread through the body. So the best thing is to remove the eye and hope we have got it."

A course of strong antibiotics will give the 10-year-old moggy a better chance of a complete cure, but these are expensive and will be tough on his liver.

Isabella is not prepared to let her best friend go just yet and is fundraising to pay Louis' bills. Mother and daughter spent an entire day baking and held a bake sale outside their local dairy, which raised $450.

Isabella wrote to SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge who replied with a $200 voucher towards the veterinary bills.

Jay Patel at the Orakei Post Centre Superette on Coates Ave allowed the family to sell their baking outside his store and is happy to collect donations on their behalf.

Anyone who would like to help can email operationlouis@xtra.co.nz or follow Louis' progress on Facebook by searching Operation Louis.

East And Bays Courier