Posted December 26, 2013
Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a dangerous bacteria that is difficult to treat because it is unaffected by most antibiotics. MRSA infections often have been linked to health care environments, but new research demonstrates a significant change in community-based sources is causing concern.
History of Staph and MRSA
Staphylococcus (staph) bacteria have been prevalent in the United States for decades. It occurs naturally, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 30 percent of people have general staph cells in their nostrils or on their skin. Usually it causes problems only when the bacteria get inside cuts and scrapes.
Back in the 1940s, staph infections were treated with penicillin, but the bacteria quickly became resistant to it, and doctors switched to methicillin. Within 20 years, though, staph infections began showing resistance to this drug, indicating the development of MRSA.
Preventing Staph Infection
According to WebMD, the best way to prevent development of an infection is to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and to keep cuts and scrapes covered with a clean bandage until they are healed.
MRSA: A Public Health Threat
According to USA Today, no drug-defying bug has proven more persistent than MRSA. Each year thousands of Americans suffer from MRSA-related issues, such as skin boils and pneumonia, with about 20,000 succumbing to the deadly infection. Researchers believe the number of community-based MRSA is under-reported, and are concerned about the sources.
As health care facilities adopted stricter infection-control procedures, MRSA rates declined. But in the 1990s, medical professionals identified a new trend: MRSA was being diagnosed in patients who had not been in a health care facility. Infectious disease specialists discovered that most of these individuals contracted MRSA in public places, including schools and gyms. The CDC has noted an increase in the number of children, from newborns to teenagers, affected by MRSA. According to the CDC, MRSA infections in children increased at least 10 percent from 2005 and 2010, and community-based MRSA grew 55 percent.
Medical professionals continue to analyze the growth of community-based MRSA. In one study conducted at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers identified a 38 percent increased risk of MRSA infections for individuals in Pennsylvania who live close to farms that use pig manure. Although experts have not confirmed whether this was the source of the MRSA, many question whether antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animal manure can become airborne and contribute to MRSA illness.
To learn more about staph infections and MRSA, review this blog post and these articles: