herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Superbug that eats flesh is now here

A DEADLY new strain of the superbug MRSA which spread across America has been detected in Ireland. The USA300 strain is a potentially fatal form of the superbug, which is passed on through skin-to-skin contact.



It can lead to a kind of pneumonia with flesh-eating symptoms. The strain can cause large boils to develop on the skin and also survive through various front-line antibiotic treatments.

In the worst cases of USA300, deadly blood poisoning or pneumonia that eats away at tissue in the lungs can develop.



HEALTHY

The National MRSA Reference Laboratory which is based in Dublin, has confirmed that USA300 had been identified in a small number of cases, and the lab is monitoring the situation.

In the UK, research carried out by biologist Ruth Massey of the University of Bath reported that 200 cases of it were reported in England last year.

Dr Massey said that the bug needed to be taken seriously by authorities. "There is a serious threat posed by this newer strain of bacteria, capable of causing disease and even death in perfectly healthy people," she said. She said that it could cause abscesses and produce a lot of sticky pus, which causes it to be passed around easily if hands are not washed properly.

She has urged more vigilance when dealing with bugs known as PVL-positive community acquired MRSA strains, including USA300.

"These community-acquired strains seem to be good at affecting healthy people -- they seem to be much better than the hospital ones at causing disease," Dr Massey said.

MRSA usually affects sick people who have weakened immune systems, but this new strain is so potent it can affect even the healthiest individuals outside of hospitals.

The danger of this strain lies in its ability to keep secreting toxins even when antibiotics are used against it. In the US, MRSA bugs acquired in the community kill thousands of people every year.

Chris Thomas, a professor of molecular genetics, said recently that there was now a "need to worry about community super bugs that are fine tuned to spreading outside of hospitals and we all need to be extra vigilant about hygiene and unnecessary use of antibiotics".

fdillon@herald.ie

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