Drug-Resistant MRSA Strain Spreading Through MSM Communities in Boston, San Francisco, Researchers Say
January 15, 2008
A drug-resistant strain of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is appearing among men who have sex with men in Boston and San Francisco, according to a study published online in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the New York Times reports (Altman, New York Times, 1/15). HIV-positive people "seem especially prone" to the infection, according to the San Francisco Chronicle (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15).
According to the Chronicle, the strain, called USA300, is resistant to six major antibiotic classes (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15). USA300 is resistant to two of the three alternative MRSA treatments recommended by CDC and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Times reports. The strain also is resistant to mupirocin, which has been "advocated for eradicating the strain from carriers," Henry Chambers, a study author and chief of infectious diseases at SFGH, said (New York Times, 1/15).
USA300 is "more virulent than standard staph," Shelly Gordon, an infectious disease specialist at California Pacific Medical Center, said. She added that emergency department physicians should test for drug resistance to avoid using the wrong antibiotic and fueling further resistance (Wall Street Journal, 1/15). Diep added that "once" the strain "reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable. That's why we're trying to spread the message of prevention."
According to the researchers, the increase in MRSA among MSM comes at a time when HIV, syphilis and rectal gonorrhea also are increasing in the population in part because of an increase in risky sexual behavior and injection drug use. The "likelihood of contracting each of these diseases increases with the number of sexual partners that you have," Diep said, adding that the "same can probably be said for MRSA" (Beck, Reuters, 1/14). Chambers said that high antibiotic use is the "most important factor" that the new drug-resistant strain is appearing among MSM (Wall Street Journal, 1/15).
According to Francoise Perdreau-Remington -- director of the molecular epidemiology lab at SFGH, where the strain was first identified -- USA300 has been found in 44 states and is beginning to spread through Europe. In 2007, CDC calculated that about 19,000 U.S. residents -- more than the number of people who die annually from AIDS-related causes -- died from drug-resistant strains of MRSA (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15).
The study is available online.
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Steve Boswell, president and CEO of the Fenway Community Health Center, and Diep (Knox, "All Things Considered," NPR, 1/14). Audio and a partial transcript of the segment, as well as expanded NPR coverage, are available online.
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.