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Antibiotic Overkill and MRSA

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"Staph infections have been around forever, explains John Tedeschi, MD, Virtua pediatrician, "the difference is that now, every boil brings with it the specter of a communityassociated methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection (MRSA)."

"You can't under- or overestimate the significance of community-associated MRSA," says Dr.Tesedchi. "The majority of MRSA infections still occur in ICU and surgical units.However, more recently, children have tragically died from them, and community-associated MRSA infection rates are increasing in the general population.

Results from an NIH-directed study demonstrate that community-associated USA300 MRSA, the strain which has evolved from hospital-acquired MRSA, shows "extraordinary transmissibility."

Fueling the super bug's power is antibiotic resistance. For now, medicine has stayed one step ahead, creating ever more powerful versions of basic antibiotics such as amoxicillin, a ramped up version of penicillin.

Dr.Tedeschi: "In 99 percent of nonsevere community-associated MRSA cases, oral medication such as clindamycin can control or eliminate infection. However, it is worth noting that clindamycin, now standard therapy for non-severe MRSA, once was reserved only for patients who were gravely ill."

Making an early MRSA diagnosis, starting immediate therapy, and treating others who may harbor the infection are the keys to a successful recovery and a safer community. Dr.Tedeschi adds: "Just as critical in helping to stop MRSA and other antibioticresistant infections is educating patients about the risks of taking unnecessary antibiotics - for themselves and for society - and, of course, washing your hands."

For more information on communityassociated MRSA go to: www.cdc.gov.

This Virtua Physician article was last updated: August 25, 2008