Deadly infection kills another teen and becomes increasingly dangerous to people everywhere
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Deadly infection kills another teen and becomes increasingly dangerous to people everywhere

Date: October 17, 2007
By: Bria Scudder
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Potentially fatal infection is so common in Missouri that there is no record of how many cases they've seen, according to Dr. Eddie Hedrick the Missouri Department of Health Emerging Infections Coordinator.

 

Deadly infection contracted by people of all ages may be more deadly than AIDS. Methicillin- resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, also known as staph infections is becoming more and more of a threat, especially in high schools. In Virginia, a 17-year-old female died Monday after contracting the infection.

 

 Hedrick,  said that the MRSA bug grows and produces a toxin called panton valentine leukocidin, or PVL, that breaks down the immune system and weakens your ability to fight the infection. It appears as boils, pimples and infected wounds.

 

Despite the recent outbreak of MRSA, this infection is not a recent development. "This isn't new", Dr. Hedrick said. "It started in the mid 1980s and is continuing to grow." In the 1970s, people were acquiring hospital associated staph infections. Surgery patients are most at risk to this type. This infection is only treatable by one drug, and is immune to all others.

 

There is still confusion as to where it came from. Dr. Hedrick said that some of the earliest cases were seen in Native Americans and Aborigines.

 

"The new guy on the block is one that we call community acquired MRSA and it's a whole different bug." Dr. Hedrick said. Although it is more easily treatable, it is also more capable of causing severe disease. This particular strain became visible in 2002, and has caused problems worldwide. Dr. Hedrick said that close to 90,000 people in the U.S. have this infection. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of cases are community acquired.

 

Dr. Hedrick said that one obstacle in combating the infection is that they often look like spider bites, and doctors misdiagnose it. It is also confused with the hospital acquired strain that is treated with Vacomycin. The community acquired infection cannot be treated the same way. If the community acquired is treated with Vacomycin then you run the risk of immunity to the drug.

 

Community acquired MRSA is most often passed in  locker rooms, daycares and prisons all over the country. Anyone with bad hygiene, skin diseases or broken skin is at a higher risk of catching the infection. It was most common among wrestlers due to close contact and unclean wrestling mats.  Two years ago the St. Louis Rams had an outbreak of community acquired MRSA. Hedrick said that this came from the players sharing towels and razors. 

 

The good news is that the community acquired infection is more treatable than hospital acquired if it is detected in its early stages. Hedrick also said that it can be prevented.

 

Hedrick said incision and drainage can get rid of it in early stages. Even in later stages, mild prescriptions are also effective. Dr. Hedrick said that the "King Kong" drugs are not necessary most of the time.

 

Tom Quinn, Director of School Governance, said he does not think that MRSA is an immediate concern. He said "It's really a non issue." He seemed to be confident that if an outbreak occurred that the school districts would do their best to handle the situation.

 

Dr. Brian Geisbrecht, assistant professor at the School of Biological Sciences at University of Missouri Kansas City said that MRSA is not always invoked. He said, "Some percentage of people are going to be coming down with staph infections just by bad luck." 

 

Geisbrecht also expressed concerned about the effectiveness of prescription drugs. He said, "The generation time for bacteria is like 20 minutes...

They are perfectly suited to adapting to different types of situations that they encounter, and one of those situations is exposure to antibiotics."

Although they may be effective initially, he said we may be training bacteria to become resistant to the drugs when prescribing them.  "They will evolve ways of counteracting the function of those drugs."

 

Hedrick said, the key is educating the medical community about what to look for and exactly what kind of medications to treat with and educating the public" said Hedrick. "A lot of it's just good hygiene. It's not rocket science."