When the flesh eating bacterial strain of MRSA known as USA300 was first recorded, it was held back by several factors, chief among them its inability to easily spread without the established health care infrastructure. But now the illness has left the hospital, spreading now on buses and other public spaces – and now can be passed on by such a simple thing as a sneeze.
Chris Williams, professor of molecular genetics at Birmingham was recently quoted by Metro as saying the illness could be spread by those infected with it by touching their hair and then shaking hands or even sneezing on a crowded subway and then letting the disease rest on the cold metal hand guards. Ordinarily these metal surfaces would not be as inhabitable an environment for the deadly strain, but since the mutation it will be increasingly seen outside of hospitals – their previous domain.
The new strain will increasingly become a problem with antibiotics that previously worked on it no longer able to contain it or kill it off once it has entered the body. The flesh eating illness of the genus Staphylococcus posed a health risk in the UK last year where some 200 people were infected with it. In the US, that number was over 1,000. How have these bacteria mutated? And why do antibiotics no longer work on them?
MRSA, also known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is increasingly becoming a problem in countries at the frontier of medicine. Unfortunately, the only cure it seems is to create more effective targeted antibiotics against it. For years members of the public have inquired as to how a disease such as this could be spread so widely. Some have even suggested the money be followed to who is benefiting from the MRSA bacteria – citing it may be partially due to the big money to be made with the bacteria’s success.
On the other hand, an article published in 2007 from the Independent Ireland suggests that Irish hospitals were covering up cases of MRSA to hide the fact that the bacteria was being improperly made to look like deaths from MRSA were being attributed to a number of other factors. Of course in this case it was possibly due more to the newness of the disease and not necessarily to a central conspiracy. And since the hospitals involved operated independently, it seems reasonable to suggest that may have been the case.
How can a person protect themselves from the MRSA bug? The answers at the moment from the CDC suggest a variety of personal prevention practices including covering wounds, talking to your doctor, washing hands thoroughly and regularly, and maintaining a clean environment. While this doesn’t solve the matter of the institutional measures that will inevitably have to be put in place to keep this super bug from growing, it will help individuals concerned with it affecting their lives.