Health Team

Report: Drug-Resistant Staph Germ Widespread

Posted June 29, 2007 5:04 p.m. EDT
Updated June 29, 2007 6:46 p.m. EDT

— A potentially dangerous germ may be more common in hospitals and nursing homes than first thought, according to a new report.

MRSA or MURSA is a strain of staph infections that are resistant to everyday antibiotics.

"It's acquired a certain genetic component that makes it resistant to routine antibiotics that we use," said Dr. Pascal Imperato, a physician at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

MURSA is spread by touch or can rest on a surface. Most people get a skin infection like a rash or boils, but older, more susceptible patients can contract life-threatening blood infections and pneumonia, Imperato said.

Researchers say MURSA may be growing. According to a new survey, at least 30,000 patients in the U.S. carry the super-bug at any time -- about 10 times previous estimates.

Doctors aren't required to report cases of MURSA to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so there might be more cases than are reported.

Still, Imperato said limitations within the study throw the reported numbers into question. But he said he believes MURSA is a problem in hospitals and elsewhere.

"(The germ can be spread in) nursing homes, among athletes in locker rooms and among prisoners and among children in schools," he said.

A simple test detects MURSA, which can then be treated with powerful intravenous antibiotics.

"It's a nasty infection, but the majority of people who acquire this recover from it without any difficulty," Imperato said.

The best way to stop MURSA from spreading is with soap and water, regular hand-washing and disinfecting shared surfaces, he said.