Drug Resistant MRSA Superbug found Among Gay MenJan 15, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP A highly drug-resistant MRSA super bug is resisting even more drugs than other strains of the bacteria and affecting gay communities in San Francisco. Sexually active gay men are 13 times more likely to develop this new strain—called USA300. San Francisco’s Castro district has the highest number of gay residents nationwide, according to study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco. One in 588 Castro distric residents is infected with the new multi-drug-resistant MRSA strain; in greater San Francisco, the figure is 1 in 3,800. The strain is much more difficult to treat because it is resistant not just to methicillin, but also many more of the antibiotics used to treat the earlier strains, said Dr. Henry F. Chambers, an author of the study. “This particular clone is resistant to at least three other drugs, clindamycin, tetracycline, and mupirocin,” he said.
Recently, a mutated form of staph called MRSA emerged and, when not treated early, was found to be resistant to all but the one antibiotic of last resort. Formerly used in the most potent cases, this drug is being used more and more and, as a result, MRSA—Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria—is developing resistance to this last successful medication. And while new MRSA drugs are emerging, it was predicted that it was simply a matter of time before the super bug would become resistant to them, too.
Infectious diseases become resistant to bacteria because of antibiotic overuse and abuse. When antibiotics are used for a virus, such as the common cold, they have no effect. But people want antibiotics and doctors will prescribe them. Bacteria want to survive. And they do. We prescribe antibiotics; bacteria learn to adapt. We overuse or misuse antibiotics; bacteria mutate, changing just enough to ensure antibiotics have no effect on them and giving them a wide berth to spread with ever more power. Although tempting, preventative antibiotic regimes only worsen the epidemic and strengthen the bacteria.
According to a study published online by the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the bacteria seem to spread best through anal intercourse but also through casual skin-to-skin contact and touching contaminated surfaces. The authors warned that unless microbiology laboratories were able to identify the strain and doctors prescribed the proper antibiotic therapy, the infection could soon spread among other groups, becoming an even wider threat. Researchers suggest scrubbing with soap and water might be the most effective way to stop skin-to-skin transmission, particularly following sexual activities.
MRSA was once spread chiefly in hospitals. But in recent years, a number of healthy people have acquired it outside hospitals. Nearly 19,000 people died in the United States from MRSA infections in 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported.
The infection can cause severe problems, including abscesses and skin ulcers and the bacteria can invade through the skin to produce necrotizing fasciitis, thus the name “Flesh-Eating Bacteria.” Pneumonia, damage to the heart, and widespread infection through the blood can also occur. Among the men in the study, MRSA was spread by skin contact, causing abscesses and infection in the buttocks and genitalia.