MRSA Strain Spreading Voraciously, Shows Antibiotic Resistance

MRSA—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—is so prevalent that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about 32 infections for every 100,000 people.  Now, the <"">MRSA linked to infections in communities appears to be caused by one strain that is spreading with voracity, say federal scientists studying the epidemic in two federally sponsored investigations and a third smaller one, funded by the state Health Department and taking place on Long Island.

Researchers agree that understanding MRSA is important because of the disease’s ability to elude the effects a variety of very potent antibiotics.  In the past, when someone was infected with staph, the cure was simple:  A few doses of penicillin.  This is no longer the case; fears of mutation and an antibiotic resistant superbug are reality.  Infectious diseases become resistant to bacteria because of antibiotic overuse and abuse.  Bacteria want to survive, and they do, learning to adapt and mutate just enough to ensure antibiotics have no effect on them and giving them a wide berth to spread with increasing power.

Reporting in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, microbiologist Frank DeLeo found that MRSA USA300 is the epidemic strain responsible for many of the infections isolated in communities nationwide and is the same strain recently discovered in San Francisco’s gay community.  DeLeo said USA300 has numerous subtypes or clones which emerge from the parent strain, “We anticipate that new USA300 derivatives will emerge within the next several years and that these strains will have a wide range of disease-causing potential.”  DeLeo conducts MRSA research at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ facilities in Hamilton, Montana and his research is the first to compare DNA fingerprints of MRSA from various parts of the country and rules out the theory that multiple MRSA strains emerged randomly with similar characteristics

With early and proper diagnosis—when there is a small eruption on the skin and before reaching the bloodstream—MRSA is easily treated.  But MRSA spreads rapidly and can lead to respiratory failure, attacking vital organs.  Survivors are not always returned to pre-MRSA condition, losing limbs, hearing, and full organ use.  Hand hygiene is the best way to avoid MRSA infections.

At one time, MRSA was a hospital-acquired organism.  Today, it is spreading in communities and being introduced into hospitals from the outside.  Last year, 94,000 Americans developed MRSA; 20% died.  Dr. Bruce Farber, who is receiving a $200,000 NY State grant to analyze hospital-acquired MRSA said, “We all know that MRSA is an important, if not the most important hospital-acquired and community-acquired organism.”
Farber, head of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, and colleagues will screen for MRSA strains before patients are admitted to the nine intensive care units in five of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System’s hospitals; research will likely involve over 5,000 patients.  The second federal study, reported in the Journal of Immunology, reveals how MRSA eludes the human immune system, avoiding destruction by the voracious white blood cells called neutrophils that ingest and destroy microbes and release hydrogen peroxide and hypochlorous acid, a chemical similar to household bleach.

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