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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Health: MRSA and Multi-Drug-Resistant Acinetobacter

There might be some confusion, even among eminent worthies of a nonmedical stripe, about MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) and Multi-Drug-Resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (MDRAb). The charming bug shown above is MDRAb. This bug is MRSA.

Both bugs were, heretofore, common in the human environment, living quite happily among us. However, both, having recently encountered antibiotics, have developed strains which are resistant to one or more types of antibiotics. There, the similarity ends.

Acinetobacter baumannii started showing up shortly after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, primarily in hospitals. Walter Reed of recent ill-fame showed an explosion of cases after 2002, including a strain of the bacteria that became "flesh-eating," according to Science News.

Faux News reports that St. Joseph's Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has closed its ICU due to an outbreak of acinetobacter. ABC News, which reported the same incident, titled it "Drug-Resistant Staph Hits ... ," although they correctly identify the cause of the shutdown as Acinetobacter baumannii.

Says Science News:
Some strains of the bug resist nearly all antibacterial drugs, forcing physicians to rely on colistin, an antibiotic that fell out of favor in the 1970s after reports that it caused kidney damage. "We're resurrecting colistin from antiquity," says physician Michael Zapor of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. But he adds that "it's only a matter of time before we lose [it], too."
Well, that's an endearing choice. Would you prefer to die, or live without kidneys? Can't say the options are good either way.

Both MRSA and MDRAb are nothing to sneeze at. As we blogged recently, MRSA cases are exploding, and there is a hospital variant as well as a community variant.

Nevada state health official Dr. Steven Althoff had this to say about MRSA:
“I've seen probably at least a fivefold increase in cases over the last year,” Althoff said. “It is super important to stress that while there is a lot of hype about this, staph has been a plague for thousands of years. This is just a special flavor of it that has drug resistance.”

Dr. F. Kevin Murphy, a Reno infectious disease specialist, said MRSA has become a “greater and greater problem.” He said he had no cases six years ago.

“Now I probably get calls from physicians on how to diagnose or manage MRSA infections once a week,” he said. “I get called to the emergency room probably once a month.”
The Associated Press tells us:
About 1.7 million Americans each year develop infections from various germs while hospitalized and almost 100,000 of them die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MRSA accounts for only about 10 percent of these infections. Other worrisome bugs include C-difficile (an intestinal infection), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (linked with intestinal, skin and blood infections), and drug-resistant Acinetobacter (which can cause pneumonia, skin and blood infections); none of them accounts for more than 10 percent of hospital infections.
I'm sure that's no consolation to people who catch any of these bugs. But my original point is, how is having an inept Homeland Security department and TSA goons who routinely manhandle us making us safer? We ought to be looking at the rising number of antibiotic-resistant germs plaguing us, and the rapid mutation of various types of bugs.

Over at Mike the Mad Biologist's, Mike and commentators discuss the possibilities. Especially in light of the fact that large numbers of pigs slaughtered in Holland appear to have MRSA up their noses. Ugh!

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