Superbug variant more common in gay men

January 14, 2008 7:58:21 PM PST
Researchers in San Francisco have found a variant of the antibiotic resistant "superbug" known as MRSA is much more common among sexually active gay men. However, the bacteria is also easily spread through casual contact.

MRSA infections typically present a skin infection -- one of the most effective treatments is to lance the boils and drain the infection. As new strains of MRSA develop, it may become the only treatment option.

A petri dish was covered with the bacteria known as methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus. This particular bug is known as usa300 and it's even more drug resistant than previous strains.

"This particular variant is resistant to tetracycline, clidamycin, and mupirocin," says Dr. Henry Chambers, UCSF Professor of Medicine.

His latest research published in the annals of internal medicine finds this variant of MRSA is much more common among gay men and appears to spread through intimate contact.

Dr. Henry does not know whether this represents the tip of an iceberg in one population and that's where it's going to stay or is this the tip of the iceberg of a problem that's only going to get worse in the general population.

In San Francisco, the rate of infection for MRSA runs about 1 in every 3800 people, but in San Francisco's Castro district, that number jumps to one in every 588 people.

"Gay men have a 13 fold greater risk of developing this multi drug resistant form of MRSA than the general population," says Binh Diep, Ph.D., UCSF and SF General Hospital Researcher.

UCSF and San Francisco General Hospital researcher Binh Diep was lead author of the paper. He also raises the concern that this strain of MRSA could spread through casual contact. He says there are simple ways to help prevent that.

"There's a bottom line message here is that MRSA is a preventable disease. A good scrubbing with soap and water is very effective in preventing disease transmission."

Dr. Chambers says, "if you get a wound, it should be cleaned, it should be covered. If a sore develops, for sure cover it."

If prevention efforts fail, getting proper treatment as soon as possible is critical.