29 May 2007

7-fold increase CA-MRSA in parts of Chicago

Via the Archives of Internal Medicine, a new study from Cook County Hospital and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Betwen 2000 and 2005, the incidence of CA-MRSA at the hospital and its neighborhood clinics increased 6.84 times. Notably, meth-sensitive staph (MSSA) did not decrease - this was a true addition, not a substitution of one strain for another. And 79% of the strains identified were USA300. Important clues to the rapid spread of the bug: Those infected were more likely to have been incarcerated more than once (carrying the bug from the known epicenters of jails and prisons back out into the community) or to live in public housing (possibly because of overcrowding as Chicago demolishes its old-style projects and moves the people who live there into its remaining public housing). The paper raises but can't answer the question of a synergy between those factors: People coming out of jail may be returning to households in public housing creating a bridge between a known epicenter and a population whose living conditions put them at greater risk.

Find the paper here.

10 May 2007

Got (wallaby) milk?

Researchers in Melbourne, Australia report finding a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound in the milk of the Tammar wallaby, which lives on islands off Australia's south and west coasts. Like other young, wallabies are born with an undeveloped immune system yet seem notably resistant to infection; the compound, AGG01, may be why.
Using advanced computer systems, researchers at the state of Victoria's Department of Primary Industries in Melbourne, Australia, found more than 30 potential bug-fighting compounds in the milk of the Tammar Wallaby (Macropus eugenii). One compound, known as AGG01, was particularly potent said lead researcher and animal geneticist, Ben Cocks.

Some experiments showed small amounts of a synthetic form of the drug were able to kill all bacteria in 30 minutes. "We found in lab tests that AGG01 is very effective against multidrug-resistant gram negative bacteria, including those that are most difficult to treat," he said.
Next research step: Designing a wallaby-milking machine.

Full text: Anti-superbug weapon developed from wallaby milk

(Hat tip to Boing Boing.)

MRSA pneumonia deaths in children - on the rise?

On Wednesday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pushed out an official Health Advisory (an electronic communication to state and local health departments) asking them to report any children in their area who have died from MRSA pneumonia. Deaths seem to be on the rise. Money quote:
Only one influenza and S. aureus co-infection was identified in 2004-2005, and 3 were identified in 2005-2006. Of the 16 children reported with S. aureus so far in 2006-2007, 11children had methicillin-resistant (MRSA) isolated from a sterile site (9) or sputum (2), and 5 had methicillin-susceptible S.aureus isolated from a sterile site (3) or sputum (2). ... Children with influenza and S. aureus co-infections were reported to be in good health before illness onset but progressed rapidly to severe illness. Influenza strains isolated from these children have not been different from common strains circulating in the community and the MRSA strains have been typical of those associated with MRSA skin infection outbreaks in the United States.
The possibility always exists that surveillance has changed - in other words, that more cases are being found because doctors are authorities are looking harder for them. Still, the rise is troubling.

Here's the full text: Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality and the Increase of Staphylococcus aureus co-infection

First post!

Hi all - I'm Maryn McKenna, independent health journalist, author, journalism teacher, now working on a new book about drug-resistant staph. I'm interested in hearing from researchers, victims and disease geeks; all tips, thoughts, leads and personal stories are welcome. For more about me, check my website in the blogroll, along with other important sites about public health and disease. Let's get started.