MRSA the New American Epidemic?

10/30/2011

We hear a lot about salmonella and e.coli, but MRSA or Staphylococcus aureus largely falls under the radar. It’s a threat that gets little press even though it kills more people each year in the U.S. than HIV, according to an article in Scientific American

Scientific American reports that “[t]he superbug, called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strain 398, or MRSA ST398, was first identified in an infant in the Netherlands in 1994 and traced back to her family’s pigs.” But now infections are appearing where scientists can find no link to livestock. As the rate of infection goes up, the transmission method remains a mystery.

This new resistant variety has without a doubt been directly linked to a brutal animal husbandry industry that makes a huge profit producing meat and poultry at a cheap price and making it available to all but at major risk to public health

The FDA’s draft guideline on the subject, The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals outlined the need to limit and phase out the use of antibiotics to accelerate the weight of livestock. This "sub-therapeutic" use of antibiotics is often administered to entire flocks or herds through feed or water and isn't directed toward a particular disease. This continual use of low dose antibiotics creates a breeding ground for drug resistance, posing risks for humans and animals. When just one bacteria survives antibiotics it has the ability to multiply and create "superbugs" that can evade antibiotics.

According to Scientific American:

Staph aureus infections can cause skin and soft tissue infections, respiratory tract infections like pneumonia, bacteremia (the presence of bacteria in the blood) and endocarditis (inflammation of the inner heart). 

And these new resistant varieties are hard to treat. It’s an issue that we have to address and soon if we don’t want this deadly strain to become the new American epidemic. 

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More on MRSA
MRSA 101
Thyme Could Stop the Spread of the Deadly Infection MRSA 
Will the FDA Act on Antibiotic Resistance?


Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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