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MRSA superbugs actually caused by widespread antibiotics use in the 1960s

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 by: E. Huff, staff writer
Tags: superbugs, antibiotics, health news

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(NaturalNews) A recent study published in the journal Science has concluded that the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, also known as methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), was caused by the widespread use of synthetic antibiotic drugs which began in the 1960s.

Scientists analyzed 63 samples of MRSA that originated from a bacterium lineage called ST239 that is responsible for a large percentage of MRSA outbreaks in hospitals all over the world. The samples, which researchers collected over a 20-year period between 1982 and 2003, mostly came from North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

The team identified a pattern of mutations throughout the course of the strain's evolution that illustrated its tendency to develop resistance to antibiotics. Utilizing a technique developed by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire that traces bacterial genetic codes, scientists were able to pinpoint the origins of the strain back to 1960s Europe, a time when widespread antibiotic use was just beginning to take hold in mainstream medicine.

Another aspect to the research was identifying how deadly bacterial strains are passed from person to person, hospital to hospital, and ultimately continent to continent. In order to accomplish this, scientists used a new technique that compares whole genomes with one another rather than isolated subsections of DNA code.

Experts believe such an approach will greatly help in preventing the spread of MRSA and other deadly bacteria by providing detailed information about how strains are transmitted. The technique also more accurately differentiates between closely related strains, improving the reliability of global MRSA surveillance programs.

The rapid rise of deadly hospital superbugs like MRSA continues to place the overuse of antibiotics in the spotlight as the culprit. Numerous studies and reports have concluded that synthetic antibiotic use has encouraged the growth of bacterial mutations that threaten public health.

One area where antibiotic-resistant superbugs have been emerging is on factory farms where heavy amounts of antibiotics are used to treat sick animals. Dirty feedlots, confined hatcheries, and other industrial techniques of raising animals for food are known to harbor and spread deadly diseases. Animals in these conditions are regularly given antibiotics, leading to the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains that continually require stronger treatments.

Many scientists still believe that the answer to deadly superbugs is to develop ever-stronger drugs to try to combat them. Based on the evidence, it is these very drugs that are the cause of the superbugs in the first place. Perhaps it is time to take a different approach.

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