Friday, April 22, 2005

Friday Staphylococcus aureus Blogging

I think this is the one that put me in the hospital. Still can't figure out how I caught it though.

Posted by Hello

Posted by Hello

Here is an interesting story on the subject though.

Staphylococcus aureus, a common germ that infects countless scrapes and scratches a year, is fast becoming an uncommon public health threat. Drug-resistant strains of staph known as MRSA, once confined to hospitals and nursing homes, have been turning up among pro football players in St. Louis, Marine recruits in North Carolina, inmates in Georgia prisons, gay men in Los Angeles, native Americans in Minnesota and pediatric wards in Atlanta.

"Close to one-fifth of what used to be a hospital-specific problem is now a community problem, and that's a large number," said Scott Fridkin of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We didn't think it would be anywhere near that high when we started the study."

Now to scare you a little:

Until a few years ago, reports of MRSA were so rare outside of hospitals that many doctors may have unwittingly aided its spread by treating it with antibiotics that didn't work.

In the last few years, outbreaks of several new staph strains have been reported in dozens of states, as well as in England, France, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, India, Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, at least two dozen people have died of MRSA pneumonia during the last two flu seasons.

Overall, health authorities have only a piecemeal picture of MRSA's prevalence — much of it based on isolated outbreaks and limited surveillance of a few communities.

A 2002 survey by the Georgia Division of Public Health, for instance, found that nearly 600 people seeking treatment for staph infections at hospitals and clinics in the eight-county metro Atlanta area were infected by MRSA. The rate doubled in just a year, but the study was discontinued for budgetary reasons.

The Georgia survey found that 70 percent of people treated for such infections were getting antibiotics to which the microbe was already resistant — an error that gave otherwise mild infections an opportunity to fester and spread.

Fortunately, association with necrotizing faciitis is rare (only 14 cases so far -all in Los Angeles).

Part of the problem is caused by an evolutionary response to the overuse of antibiotics:

MRSA struck the St. Louis Rams in September 2003, when five linebackers who did not cover their artificial turf abrasions were infected. Investigators suspect players passed the bug to each other by sharing towels, using a whirlpool without showering, and by only sporadic hand washing. They also passed the bacteria — through contact on the field — to three San Francisco 49ers during a game in St. Louis on Sept. 14.

CDC epidemiologist Sophia Kazakova, who headed the Rams study, said the reasons for the outbreak are unclear, but the team's heavy use of antibiotics may have been a contributing factor.

"The players in our investigation were receiving 10 times the number of anti-microbial prescriptions dispensed to the public," she said.


In the 1940s, when modern medicine first used antibiotics, no one realized that was the beginning of an arms race between man and microbe that would rage across the medical landscape for the next 60 years.

Penicillin, introduced during World War II, greatly reduced staph as a threat in hospitals and operating rooms. But within two years, a strain of penicillin-resistant staphylococcus had emerged. By the 1950s, the germ was universally present in hospitals. And by the 1970s, it had spread to the community at large. Today, 95 percent of all staph strains in the world are resistant to penicillin.

Modern medicine fought back. And so did staph. A new class of antibiotics, led by methicillin, was introduced in the early 1950s. And within a few years, methicillin-resistant staph had emerged in hospitals and nursing homes, where the new antibiotics were most heavily used.

Today, staph is one of the leading causes of the estimated 2 million infections and 88,000 deaths among people who get an infection in a hospital. At least 55 percent of all hospital staph infections, 60 percent of infections in intensive care units and 71 percent in nursing homes are now caused by MRSA.