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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reuters : Faster, stronger, deadlier: the MRSA superbug

Via Reuters :

" When she first described it in 1961, Patricia Jevons, a British bacteriologist, may have had a hard time imagining that the tiny bug she was staring at would soon become a penicillin-mocking juggernaut -- a superbug that kills an estimated 19,000 Americans a year and make millions more sick.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus -- or MRSA for short -- is the subject of journalist Maryn McKenna's new book Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA (Free Press, March 2010). She spoke with Reuters Health on Thursday about the bacteria's toll on public health and how we may, unwittingly, be helping a new strain along.

"One of the problems with MRSA, one of the reasons why it's become what I consider a true crisis, is that I really don't think we've been taking it sufficiently seriously for a very long time," McKenna said.

MRSA first crossed the Atlantic in 1968, landing in what used to be called Boston City Hospital. Then it inched its way across the country until 1980, when it infected a burn victim at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and caused a devastating outbreak.

"For more than a year, it hop-scotched from patient to patient," McKenna explained. "Eventually they closed both the (intensive-care unit) and the burn unit and built new ones, and still had new cases."

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