MRSA Can be Combated with Benzethonium Chloride, Research Finds

A mutated form of staph called <"">MRSA has emerged and, when not treated early, is resistant to all but the one antibiotic of last resort.  Formerly used in the most potent cases, this drug is being used more and more and, as a result, MRSA-Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria-is developing resistance to this last successful medication.  Infectious diseases become resistant to bacteria because of antibiotic overuse and abuse. When antibiotics are used for a virus, such as the common cold, they have no effect. But people want antibiotics and doctors will prescribe them.  Well, bacteria want to survive.  And they do.  We prescribe antibiotics; bacteria learn to adapt.  We overuse or misuse antibiotics; bacteria mutate, changing just enough to ensure antibiotics have no effect on them and giving them a wide berth to spread with ever more power.  Although tempting, preventative antibiotic regimes only worsen the epidemic and strengthen the bacteria.  And while new MRSA drugs are emerging, it’s just a matter of time before the superbug will become resistant to them, too.

Recently, MRSA has moved from its historic hospital setting with new cases being found in public settings and reaching younger, healthier people.  A new study indicates that many antibacterial products have some value, but a product made with benzethonium chloride kills common types of non-hospital, or community associated, MRSA bacteria better than other compounds.

MRSA generally begins with cuts or minor wounds or skin infections and is a fully preventable disease and very treatable in early stages.  When there is a small eruption on the skin and before MRSA reaches the bloodstream, the infection is easily treated with general-purpose antibiotics, the sore is bandaged and kept clean, and the infection is cured.  There is no down time and patients can resume activities with no risk of falling ill or contaminating others.  Without treatment or with incorrect diagnosis and treatment, the infection spreads rapidly and can lead to respiratory failure and surgeries, attacking vital organs like the lungs and heart.  Survivors are not always returned to their pre-MRSA condition, losing limbs, hearing, and full use of damaged organs.  MRSA killed more people than AIDS in 2005.

Researchers are looking at antibacterial creams and ointments treatment and, in laboratory studies, scientists compared three types of compounds for their effectiveness in killing four MRSA strains most commonly found in public settings:  Neomycin and polymyxin, polymyxin and gramicidin, and benzethonium chloride with tea tree and white thyme oil.  The study revealed the benzethonium chloride product killed the community-associated MRSA bacteria more rapidly and worked well against all four tested strains.  Although all of the products had some antibacterial effectiveness, only the benzethonium chloride compound had a true bactericidal (reducing bacteria by a factor of 1,000) effect against all tested MRSA strains.

Although there’s not a lot of data about the effectiveness of topical, antibacterial products in infection prevention, researchers know it takes large numbers of bacteria to produce an infection and antibacterial treatments can greatly reduce their number.  Tec Laboratories, a company that sells the benzethonium chloride product, funded the research.

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