Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Methicillin-resistant S taphylococcus au reus: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

PHOTO: What's that? Read and find out.

MRSA, the bug in the headline, killed my son ten years ago. He acquired it in the hospital where most people used to acquire it. The bacteria was made supersonic by being exposed to increasing doses of increasingly strong antibiotics.

But then it escaped.

Many people are colonized with MRSA now, including my husband and I, presumably, and of course my surviving son. My surviving son ended up in isolation in the hospital. He was colonized with MRSA and could be a threat to other patients. At two pounds he wouldn't jump out of bed and hug the other babies, but the doctors and nurses caring for him might touch him and then touch another baby without washing their hands (something I saw often enough while there for four months).

Last year, my kid's pediatrician lamented the epidemic (she used the word) of normal old flesh wounds (cuts, abrasions) becoming infected with MRSA. She told me she had at least one case a week. She's not alone, evidently:

In the new study, Fridkin and his colleagues analyzed data collected in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Tennessee, identifying 5,287 cases of invasive MRSA infection and 988 deaths in 2005. The researchers calculated that MRSA was striking 31.8 out of every 100,000 Americans, which translates to 94,360 cases and 18,650 deaths nationwide. In comparison, complications from the AIDS virus killed about 12,500 Americans in 2005.

"This indicates these life-threatening MRSA infections are much more common than we had thought," Fridkin said.

In fact, the estimate makes MRSA much more common than flesh-eating strep infections, bacterial pneumonia and meningitis combined, Bancroft noted.

"These are some of the most dreaded invasive bacterial diseases out there," she said. "This is clearly a very big deal."
And that, clearly, is an understatement.

I'm not one for excessive overreaction to medical news stories. Seems like everything these days can kill you. HOWEVER, this is one story you should be very concerned about. Every time you go to the hospital, and increasingly, schools and other group environments, you're at risk to this bacteria that's everywhere.

Same advice as always, people: Stop using antibiotics unless you're nearly dead anyway. And when you use them, don't stop when you feel better. Knock out the bacteria. In addition, take probiotics--those supplements that introduce good bacteria (This is one of my favorite brands.) while taking antibiotics so your system isn't open to every bug that comes along after you beat the infection with an antibiotic. And finally, be fastidious about wound washing. Wash your hands. Good hygiene. (Read more here about getting out of the bathroom with clean hands.)

The unfortunate thing now is that it doesn't matter how circumspect you've been about antibiotic overuse in the past, your neighbor hasn't. And enough neighbors and their doctors have given useless antibiotics (for viruses, for example) that the bugs are strengthening. And if you get sick by one of these strengthened bugs, you'll need the heavy artillery to kill them. And the heavy artillery, itself, could kill you.

Last thought: Go wash your hands, clean your computer keyboard, clean your mouse, clean all your phones and clean your light switches and door handles. Switch out your hand-towels. Use disposable hand-towels during flu season. Don't shake hands at church (my husband told me nearly none of the men wash their hands--and statistically this bears out, only about 40% of men wash their hands after going to the bathroom). If you do shake hands, carry around the waterless hand sanitizer.

The alternative is using maggots. It works. But they're maggots. That's a diabetes ridden, infected foot with maggots.


Anonymous said...

Did you mean to put a "link" in when you wrote about probiotics "(This is one of my favorite brands.)"?

Sharon said...

Ewwwww! Gross!!! Regarding probiotics, my doc recommended rotating brands (when I'm out, buy a different brand), since each brand is derived from specific strains of bacteria. Your thoughts?

Melissa Clouthier said...

Aw come on, Sharon! That's just rice pilaf on a foot :)

Anyway, here's the brand I like

It has lots of everything. It's my favorite.

Anonymous said...

I showed this picture to my children yesterday just to show them the nasty stuff that is out there. Gross! This did not look like a foot to looked like...well, ummmm, you know.

Anonymous said...

Also a interesting article here:

sandy said...

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