We knew this day would come - Deadly strain of MRSA now resistant to last-line antibiotics for infections

Thursday, May 31, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: MRSA, antibiotics, infections

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(NaturalNews) As more and more bacteria and organisms in the world become resistant to the things that used to kill them, which in turn has kept humanity relatively safe and healthy, there is new evidence that a deadly strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is now becoming resistant to last-ditch antibiotics.

Scientists say this new hospital-borne superbug has not spread thus far, but anyone who follows such developments knows that can't be far away. In fact, doctors aware of the new superbug say "the risk that MRSA could eventually overwhelm even our last-line drugs is a very serious one," Britain's Daily Mail reported, adding that it's a "dangerous organism in hospitals."

Since 2002, U.S. researchers have known of the existence of the drug-resistant superbug CC5. So far, a dozen cases have been found.

The superbug has become very good at picking up resistance genes, which includes the one that makes it resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin, the last-line drug used to fight off MRSA infections acquired in hospitals.

"MRSA strains are leading causes of hospital-acquired infections in the United States, and clonal cluster 5 (CC5) is the predominant lineage responsible for these infections," researcher Jim Sliwa said. "Since 2002, there have been 12 cases of vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA) infection in the United States - all CC5 strains. Vancomycin is a key last-line bactericidal drug for treating these infections."

Adaptive qualities mean strains could become more powerful

In the study which identified the new superbug strain of resistant MRSA, researchers sequenced genomes of all available MRSA strains found to be resistant to vancomycin, in a bid to learn what makes them different from other strains. In particular, they wanted to know why CC5 is more able than other strains to resist vancomycin.

"Vancomycin-resistant MRSA strains and other CC5 lineages have some important differences from other types of MRSA, including adaptations that allow them to co-exist with other types of bacteria and may help them take up foreign DNA," the paper said, summarizing the research results.

One reason why, researchers found, was because such strains lacked a set of genes which encode an antibiotic protein made by bacteria to kill other bacteria.

"This is important because it enables CC5 to get along well with other bacteria in mixed infections," Sliwa said.

"Instead of killing off competing organisms, CC5 aims to co-exist. This enables it to pick up genes - like the one that encodes vancomycin resistance - from unexpected places," he continued. "Mixed infections are breeding grounds for antibiotic resistance because they encourage the exchange of genes among very different kinds of organisms. In roughly the place where these bacteriocin genes are missing is a unique cluster of genes that encode enterotoxins - proteins that attack the human host and, again, could make it easier for mixed populations of bacteria to grow at infection sites."

Researchers have also learned that CC5 has a mutated gene that influences the ability to assimilate foreign DNA. That adaptive ability alone makes these strains nothing more than ticking time bombs, for they could, at any time, mutate into something that is both impossible to kill and impossible to keep from spreading, some fear.

"This makes CC5 a dangerous organism in hospitals" especially, Sliwa said.

Flesh-eating bacteria cases on the rise, too

"In hospitals, pathogens are under continuous pressure from antibiotics to survive and evolve, and CC5 isolates appear to be very well adapted to succeed by acquiring new resistances. Frequent use of antibiotics in hospital patients could select for strains like CC5 that have an enhanced ability to co-exist with bacteria that provide genes for antibiotic resistance," he added.

News of the vancomycin-resistant MRSA strains comes on the heels of earlier reports involving an outbreak of flesh-eating bacteria that are also very difficult to kill.

The condition, known as necrotizing fasciitis - a serious infection of the skin and soft tissues - has manifested itself in a number of people recently, with cases in South Carolina and Georgia, according to reports.

Natural health experts have warned for years that over-prescribing, or mis-prescribing, antibiotic medications for inappropriate health conditions would lead to this kind of problem.

Sometimes it's no fun being right.

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