Monday, January 22, 2007

How have we fallen so far behind in battle to beat MRSA?

As a new and deadly strain of the superbug is identified, Victoria Lambert examines Britain's track record
All across Europe, virulent bacteria are on the march, constantly mutating to resist the means that we invent to destroy them. Ironically, the better we get at creating antibiotic drugs that can wipe them out, the more inventive and resistant the bacteria must become to survive and multiply.
They've been doing this for billions of years and are, therefore, rather good at it. Now a report has revealed that a vicious new strain of lung-eating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA is spreading rapidly through our hospitals, augmenting the 8,000-plus cases in the UK last year.
This will mean a further headache for those trying to hit the Government's target of a 50 per cent reduction in cases by 2008.
Community-acquired infections are becoming increasingly common, too, affecting not just the elderly and infirm, but healthy children and young adults, too.
Last month, eight hospitalised patients developed infections from "community-acquired MRSA", or CA-MRSA, which throws out a toxin called Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) that effectively destroys the white blood cells the body uses to defend itself. Two of the patients died.
In Texas, bacteria with the PVL gene have affected 10 per cent of all children in three years, with symptoms including the deadly necrotising pneumonia.
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