Entries in MRSA (7)


How Cheap Meat Practices Beef Up Superbugs Like MRSA

Simon Sparrow, 1, died from a MRSA infection in 2004. His mother has since been on a mission to raise awareness of superbugs. (Everly Macario)(WASHINGTON) -- As 1½-year-old Simon Sparrow lay dying in a hospital in April 2004, doctors were perplexed as to what was causing his illness.

"None of the health care professionals at the University of Chicago had any clue as to why he died," Simon's mother, Everly Macario, recalls. "From the moment he got strange symptoms to when he died was 24 hours."

Tests following Simon's death revealed that he'd succumbed to an overwhelming infection caused by a highly antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria known as methicilliin-resistant Staph aureus, or MRSA. Despite having a doctorate in public health from Harvard, Macario had never heard of MRSA or its potentially deadly consequences.

Since her son's death, Macario has made it her mission to raise awareness of these deadly infections. On Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Macario joined a group of concerned mothers, health care providers, farmers and chefs in a roundtable meeting to raise awareness of the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The "Supermoms Against Superbugs" event, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, is meant to raise awareness of the link between antibiotic overuse in farm animals and an increase in antibiotic-resistant "superbug" infections in humans.

MRSA is among a growing number of bacterial strains that are highly resistant to antibiotics and are very difficult to treat when they cause serious infections. According to infectious disease experts, the increase in the number of superbugs over the past three decades comes from the overuse of antibiotics -- not only in humans but also in farm animals. All told, livestock consume nearly 25 million pounds of antibiotics versus the three million pounds used in humans each year, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

And an estimated 70 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are given to healthy farm animals -- not to treat disease but to promote animal growth, allow animals to live closer together and decrease the amount of time it takes to raise an animal and send it to market.

Superbugs can be the unfortunate side effect of this process. When farm animals eat the antibiotics placed in their food, it exposes the bacteria that live in their gut and skin to low levels of the drug. Some of these bugs survive this low-level assault and go on to develop resistance to the antibiotics. The resistant superbugs can then spread to humans either by direct contact with farm animals or by eating contaminated meat from the animals.

Once superbugs such as MRSA, E. coli and salmonella escape the farm, they can spread their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria that also cause infections in humans.

Dr. James Johnson, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, says this is a big problem.

"Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness against bacteria," Johnson says. "New antibiotics are not being developed at a fast enough rate, and we have fewer treatment options for infected patients."

Superbugs can cause a variety of diseases in humans, including urinary tract infections, blood stream infections, meningitis and pneumonia. The most vulnerable patients tend to be the very young, chronically ill, hospitalized patients and the elderly.

Johnson says that despite the increase in the number of superbugs, infection tends to be a "somewhat uncommon occurrence." When it does occur, however, the infection is "more difficult to treat, more costly and more likely to lead to death in severe cases."

As the superbug threat grows, lawmakers and experts alike say the solution to the problem is clear -- but not necessarily easy to get going.

One approach, doctors say, is to reduce antibiotic use in both humans and animals -- essentially using them only to treat disease, rather than for disease prevention. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who is also the only microbiologist in Congress, has in recent years introduced legislation that would regulate antibiotic use in animal feed. So far, this bill has not passed into law.

Proponents of feeding antibiotics to healthy livestock argue, however, that the process is necessary to ensure animal health and to maintain efficiency. Eliminating antibiotics from feed would decrease the number of animals meat producers can raise, and so increase meat prices.

Data from the National Research Council estimates that a ban on antibiotic use in animal feed would cost a family of four an additional 34 to 75 cents per week for meat. Critics, on the other hand, cite the total cost to U.S. households from superbug infections. According to a news release from the advocacy group Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, these costs amount to $35 billion when factoring in lost wages, hospital stays and premature deaths nationwide.

Macario says there is a solution to the problem of increased antibiotic resistance. "I want to make sure that people don't shut down or feel like the world is going to end. Not all issues are solvable, but this one is."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Antibiotic-Resistant MRSA in Livestock May Spread to Humans

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Livestock in the United States may be building resistance to deadly bacterial infections, and those superbugs may be easily transferrable to humans, according to a new study published in the journal, mBio.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to antibiotics used to treat staph infections. About two out of every 100 people carry this strain of staph, according to the National Institutes of Health, and infections can be minor to severe. The more severe infections occur most frequently in health care settings, according to the CDC, and they can quickly become life-threatening.

In 2003, scientists discovered a strain of the bacteria called ST398, and today, it can be found in pigs, turkeys, cattle and other livestock. The strain, which causes skin and respiratory infections, regularly infects people who handle the livestock.

Now the new genome analysis found that the MRSA strain found in livestock in 2003 likely came from an antibiotic sensitive strain of MRSA in humans.

"Most of the ancestral human strains were sensitive to antibiotics, whereas the livestock strains had acquired resistance on several independent occasions," Ross Fitzgerald in Center for Infectious Diseases at the University of Edinburgh, who reviewed the research, said in a press release.

Once the strain infected livestock, it likely changed into several different types, some of which are resistant to various antibiotics, said Fitzgerald, and it is now a two-way street.

"The overuse of antibiotics in food animals for growth promotion allows for various strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," said Dr. Marcus Zervos, chief of infectious diseases at Henry Ford Health Systems in Detroit. "If we continue to use antibiotics in food animals, especially for unneeded reasons, the infections will become antibiotic resistant and make their way into people."

Zervos said about 20,000 Americans die each year due to MRSA complications, meaning there are more deaths related to the staph infection than AIDS each year.About 16,000 people in the United States die of AIDS each year, according to the CDC.

The use of antibiotic growth medication has expanded as the meat and livestock industry moved to more mass production. The drugs are added to animal feeds to help the animals grow larger for slaughter, lower the percentage of fat in the livestock and boost protein content. They are also meant to prevent bacteria, including E.coli, Salmonella and enterococci from developing in the animal, but the controversial practice promotes antibiotic resistant bacteria strains to form in the animals' internal systems.

Many experts agree that the United States should follow Europe's lead by banning the feeding of all antibiotics and other drugs in livestock to promote growth. On Jan. 1, 2006, the European Union prohibited such products to prevent antibiotic resistance in humans and in animals.

While bacteria like MRSA in meat is killed once it is cooked at high heat, experts said farm workers and other handlers of the livestock are most at risk of contracting the infection.

"It's pretty unlikely that someone would get MRSA after cooking the meat, but if you don't wash your hands thoroughly after handling the raw meat, there's potential to acquire MRSA," said Dr. William Schaffner, chief of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Schaffner said he believes there is little likelihood of contracting MRSA from eating meat, but the concern of antibiotic resistance in humans is of great concern, as nationwide sales of antibiotics for humans and animals continues to grow.

Experts said the excessive use of antibiotics in the United States to treat a wide variety of illnesses, including viruses -- which do not respond to antibiotics -- and the overuse of antibiotics in food products may cause continuing resistance to antibiotics.

"These findings are a result of inaction to do something to control antibiotic use in the food animals," Zervos said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Drug-Resistant Staph Infection Hits Three at NM High School

John Coletti/Getty Images(BELEN, N.M.) -- Three students have been sickened with the antibiotic-resistant infection MRSA and 12 others tested positive for the bacterium at Belen High School in New Mexico.

School officials have vigorously disinfected the wrestling and weight rooms up to 40 times since the confirmed case was reported last week, but say they could have done more to warn parents about the rare but dangerous bacteria.

"It's been cleaned and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned," Belen Athletic Coordinator Rodney Wright told ABC affiliate KOAT.

"As of yesterday morning, we had two more cases that were confirmed," he said. The infections have mostly affected wrestlers and cheerleaders, who share the same facilities.

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics such as methicillin and its pharmaceutical relatives, oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. In the community-acquired virus, the infections appear on the skin, but can be life-threatening if not treated properly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An estimated 3 to 6 percent of the population carries the community form of MRSA, according to Dr. Silvania Ng, an infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection control at Bethesda Hospital in Cincinnati.

"It is very aggressive in the skin and [can] go to the lungs, especially in kids and can cause necrotizing pneumonia," Ng said. "If there is not drainage quickly, it can spread through the body."

Typically, MRSA is seen more in adults, but it spreads more quickly in children, who can quickly go from experiencing skin abscess to being on a lung respirator, she said. Several died when the disease was first recognized in the late 1990s.

The bacterium is carried in the mucosa of the nose, armpits or groin and spreads with close contact. Wright said the school sent home letters to parents of every winter athlete, reporting they had at least a staph infection (but not necessarily MRSA).

Not every parent received the notification. "Probably, in hindsight, I will tell you that's probably something we could have done district-wide," Wright said.

MRSA infections can occur in any geographic location and anywhere on a person's body, according to the CDC. It was first reported in 1997 when most cases were hospital-borne infections among patients with weakened immune systems.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Flu Can Be Fatal In Children With MRSA

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A nationwide study finds that children hospitalized with the flu are more likely to die if they are also infected with MRSA, mehicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, The New York Times reports.

The study used data from the most severe cases of the flu in the U.S. during the 2001-2010 H1N1 outbreak of children who had to be hospitalized in intensive care.

Researchers found that being a female, having pre-existing neurological conditions, or being immune-compromised increased the risk of death. This is in addition to flu infections of the brain or heart and co-infection with MRSA as predictors of death.

However in the healthy children, only MRSA infection was a predictor of mortality, and this relative risk of death was eight times as high as that of the uninfected

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for everyone over six months old.

The study brings attention to the fact that even previously healthy children are at risk of death after contracting the flu or flu-related complications. Pregnant women, children younger than two years old, and those over fifty years old are at especially high risk.

The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Test to Help Speed-Up Distinguishing Between MRSA and MSSA

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Health experts will now be able to save time when trying to determine whether Staphylococcus aureus infections in patients are methicillin resistant (MRSA) or methicillin susceptible (MSSA), as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Friday that it has cleared a test that will allow a speed-up in the process.

There are various types of Staphylococci bacteria, some of which are easily treated with antibiotics and some that are resistant to this treatment, such as MRSA.

The FDA has cleared the KeyPath MRSA/MSSA Blood Culture Test for use by doctors, with officials saying that the test makes it possible to determine whether bacteria in a patient’s positive blood culture sample are MRSA or MSSA within about five hours.

“This not only saves time in diagnosing potentially life-threatening infections but also allows health care professionals to optimize treatment and start appropriate contact precautions to prevent the spread of the organism,” said Alberto Gutierrez, Ph.D., director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics Device Evaluation and Safety in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Warns Hand Sanitizer Companies on False Claims

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to four companies who claim their over-the-counter products prevent infection by methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), H1N1 flu virus and E. coli.

The companies are:
•    Tec Laboratories for Staphaseptic First Aid Antiseptic/Pain Relieving Gel;
•    JD Nelson and Associates for Safe4Hours Hand Sanitizing Lotion and Safe4Hours First Aid Antiseptic Skin Protectant;
•    Dr. G.H. Tichenor Antiseptic Co. for Dr. Tichenor's Antiseptic Gel;
•    Oh So Clean, Inc dba CleanWell Company for CleanWell All-Natural Foaming Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizing Wipes, and CleanWell All-Natural Antibacterial Foaming Handsoap.

The FDA says they do not have sufficient evidence that the products are effective in fighting the infections. The companies which make hand sanitizers and lotions were given 15 days to correct the stated violations.

"MRSA is a serious public health threat," said Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "The FDA cannot allow companies to mislead consumers by making unproven prevention claims."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Develop Particle to Attack Superbugs

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- IBM researchers in San Jose are developing a small solution for a big medical problem. They are cooking up a nano particle to attack superbugs like MRSA which are resistant to traditional antibiotics.

MRSA is a growing strain of drug-resistant bacteria which kills an estimated 19,000 Americans every year. The big breakthrough is 50,000 times smaller than the thickness of human hair.  This happens to be a new class of antimicrobials that are designed to  fight pathogens and infectious disease. The researchers working with these nano particles jokingly refer to them as ninja particles because their attack is fast, effective and precious. The particles have an electromagnetic quality, searching out the cell walls of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Lab tests indicate the nano particles destroy MRSA without affecting healthy or red blood cells.

IBM has partnered with scientists at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore. The hope is that a name known for computer technology can find it's niche in modern medicine. Researchers say they are now talking with pharmaceutical companies. The next goal is to take their science from the lab to human testing.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio