Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More on MRSA

An aptly paired pair of articles appeared today on page D1 of the WSJ. The first: "Putting Superbugs on the Defensive" by Theo Francis. The second, with practical applications: "Wash Your Hands and Don't Shave Your Legs: Advice to Avoid Infection" by Laura Landro. There is so much information of interest to me as an aspiring biologist/microbiologist that it would make too long a post, so I'll just summarize.

Francis: More states are disclosing infection rates etc. (While heartening, this could be scary...) Staphylococcus aureus usually infects those with compromised immune systems, i.e. transplant patients, the elderly, and anyone hospitalized for a while. Staph's typical points of entry are scratches (see next article), catheters, IVs, and unwashed stethoscopes or hands. MRSA deaths:infections::19,000:94,000 annually, according to JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). How hospitals are combating MRSA's spread: alcohol-gel dispensers, keeping stuff sterile, and testing patients for the bug. (Any microbiologist will tell you that this is what they should have been doing all along.) Clostridium difficile, another bug that causes diarrhea, has also become resistant to several antibiotics, but its infection rates are falling as well as MRSA's.

Landro: Yes, it's about personal hygiene! (and getting a flu shot, but not necessarily for what you might think.) About 14% of MRSA infections are "community-acquired," which means you get it from normal people around you who may harbor the strain in their noses or throats without realizing it. How to prevent an infection: clean and drain the wound; cover the wounds with "clean, dry bandages"; wash your hands at least 15 seconds, rubbing hard, under hot water (I admit that I sometimes don't do this); wash and dry clothes HOT; and don't share personal items.

How often can I emphasize this? Commonsense stuff like washing hands? And, by the way, flu shots not only protect you from the flu (hopefully, if the researchers guessed right), but they also strengthen your immune system against microbes in general, AND also prevent your throat from becoming rough and therefore easier for bacteria to latch onto.

3 comments:

Peter said...

interesting - this is going around the base right now at gyms, pools, etc. so they are telling people to cover all cuts, etc.

Karen said...

Include pedicures on your list of beauty activities to avoid when it comes to Staph infections!

Hannah J said...

Karen,

I wholeheartedly agree! Anything that brings unsterilized tools near to skin that might have microscopic fissures in it isn't smart. That's why I leave my toes alone, aside from lotion. They seem to be perfectly content by themselves.