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MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a family of bacteria with resistance to one or more major antibiotics. There are currently 17 different strains of MRSA. Two particular strains, EMRSA15 and EMRSA16 account for 96% of MRSA bloodstream infections in the UK. The Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) MRSA uses a toxin which kills white blood cells is particulary virulent.
The Staphylococcus family of common bacteria are found harmlessly on the throat, nose and skin, but if it penetrates the skin, it can cause septicaemia, pneumonia and endocarditis. The infection causes by MRSA is not worse or more aggressive that other infections, but it is harder to treat. Although 'resistant', some antibiotics can be used against MRSA, at higher doses, for longer periods.
MRSA highlights a rising problem with antibiotic resistance, that has led to campaigns for all antibiotic courses of treatment to be completed by patients, and for doctors to restrain in prescribing them so often. It is also partly behind the recent hygiene push in hospitals.
The race is on in the pharmaceutical industry to develop the next generation of antibiotics before the current ones become futile.
Source; Adapted from BBC
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