MRSA is NOT just in hospitals, new research discovers: The antibiotic-resistant superbug is spreading in the wild
10/28/2017 // Russel Davis // Views

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is not only contained within hospital settings and may actually spread elsewhere, according to a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Health experts have insisted that patients carrying MRSA can be screened upon hospital admission, by which time the doctors will take note of the time and place of occurrence to see if an outbreak is well underway.

However, the researchers have noted that traditional detection methods may miss transmission between people in hospitals and the community. The experts have stressed that outbreaks in the family or within community groups may prove challenging to detect. Likewise, the scientists have stated that traditional detection methods might not be sufficiently sensitive when a patient's movement speed -- either around the hospital or in between facilities -- is taken into account. Teams of researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have discovered a new way of detecting MRSA infections through genome sequencing.

"Using whole-genome sequencing, we have been able to see the full picture of MRSA transmission within hospitals and the community for the first time. We found that sequencing MRSA from all affected patients detected many more outbreaks than standard infection control approaches. This method could also exclude suspected outbreaks, allowing health authorities to rationalize resources," author Julian Parkhill has reported in a Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News article.


As part of the study, the research team has examined data on more than 2,000 MRSA-positive patients across East England for more than a year. The experts have also sequenced the DNA of at least one MRSA strain from 1,465 participants. The scientists have been able to detect up to 173 different outbreaks or transmission clusters with 598 patients. (Related: Superbug apocalypse rapidly approaching as nearly one-quarter of infections now UNTREATABLE with first line antibiotics.)

Likewise, the findings have demonstrated that 118 transmission clusters have involved hospital contacts alone, while 27 clusters have entailed community contacts alone and 28 clusters combined both types of contact. The researchers have also detected MRSA outbreaks in places outside the hospital including the community, surgery facilities, homes, and places in between.

"Our study has shown that sequencing all MRSA samples as soon as they are isolated can rapidly pinpoint where MRSA transmission is occurring. If implemented in clinical practice, this would provide numerous opportunities to catch outbreaks early and target these to bring them to a close, for example by decolonizing carriers and implementing barrier nursing. We have the technology in place to do this, and it could have a really positive impact on public health and patient outcomes," study leader Sharon Peacock adds.

"Antibiotic resistance poses a global challenge to healthcare. To tackle it we need to prevent infections, preserve existing antibiotics and promote the development of new therapies and interventions. This study sheds light on MRSA transmission within and between hospitals and the community, which could help strengthen infection prevention and control measures," Dr. Jonathan Pearce, head of infections and immunity at the Medical Research Council, has stated in Daily Mail online.

The research team has expressed plans to carry out a follow-up study next year.

Prevent MRSA transmission, infection with these steps

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MRSA transmission and eventual infection occurs upon contact with an infected wound. Likewise, the CDC stresses that sharing personal items -- such as razors and towels -- with an infected person may give way to MRSA transmission. The federal agency has also stated that symptoms of MRSA skin infection include:

  • redness;
  • inflammation;
  • pain;
  • warm skin;
  • presence of pus and other drainage; and
  • fever.

However, the CDC has also listed a few helpful steps to prevent the onset of MRSA infection. These pointers include:

  • Practicing routine hand washing and showering;
  • Regularly cleaning and covering wounds until they heal completely;
  • Not sharing personal items; and
  • Seeking immediate medical attention if infection is suspected.

Sources include:

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