Written by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple
An antibiotic-resistant superbug that has long been a problem in hospitals and other health care settings has found a new reservoir: U.S. homes.
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a bacteria that is responsible for many hard-to-treat infections in different parts of the body. Its resistance to common antibiotics like penicillin and amoxicillin has earned MRSA a place in the “superbug” category.
In hospitals and other medical facilities, MRSA can cause life-threatening infections in the bloodstream, urinary tract, lungs, and surgical sites.
Outside of medical settings, MRSA usually manifests itself in the form of skin infections spread by physical contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Anyone can get MRSA through direct contact with an infected wound or by sharing personal items, such as towels or razors, that have touched infected skin. MRSA infection risk can be increased when a person is in certain activities or places that involve crowding, skin-to-skin contact, and shared equipment or supplies. This might include athletes, daycare and school students, military personnel in barracks, and people who recently received inpatient medical care.
Now, a new study shows that homes can be “major reservoirs” for the bacteria:
“What our findings show is it’s also endemic in households,” said lead researcher Dr. Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
HealthDay reported on the findings:
The new results, published April 21 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are based on 161 New York City residents who contracted MRSA infections between 2009 and 2011.
Uhlemann’s team analyzed the genetic makeup of MRSA samples from those patients, and took swabs from a comparison group of people the same age who had not fallen ill to see if they harbored any kind of S. aureus bacteria. The researchers also tested other members of each patient’s household and their social contacts, and took samples from household surfaces to hunt for S. aureus contamination.
In the end, they found evidence that people’s homes were “major reservoirs” of a MRSA strain called USA300 — which is the chief cause of community MRSA infections across the United States.
Bacteria taken from people living in the same home, for example, were genetically very similar, while there was more genetic variability between samples from different households.
The implication, Uhlemann said, is that “we can’t just treat the person with the infection. We have to attempt to remove the (MRSA) colonization from the home.”
Dr. Henry Chambers, a MRSA expert who is the chair of the antimicrobial resistance committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, was not involved in the research, but wasn’t surprised by the findings:
“Transmission is a function of contact and time. At the end of the day, who are you in contact with the most? Your family.”
Experts believe that MRSA has spread outside of healthcare settings because of antibiotic misuse and overuse. Bacteria that survive antibiotic exposure can mutate and become resistant to that drug.
Uhlemann’s team found some evidence to support that:
They discovered that mutations in USA300 that confer resistance to antibiotics called fluoroquinolones (such as ciprofloxacin, sold as Cipro) may have emerged around 1995 in New York City. Fluoroquinolone prescriptions would later soar nationwide — by about 50 percent between 1999 and 2008, the study says.
So it’s possible that widespread use of those drugs helped the resistant USA300 strain spread.
“This, once again, argues for the careful use of antibiotics,” Uhlemann said.
Chambers agreed. “We know that about half of antibiotics prescribed aren’t needed,” he said. (source)
MRSA usually appears as a bump or infected area on the skin that may be red, swollen, painful, and warm to the touch. The bump may be filled with pus, and a fever may be present.
To avoid contracting MRSA, wash your hands often, avoid sharing personal items like razors and towels, and keep wounds clean and covered until healed