According to a study, some of the boils and pimples severe enough to send people to hospital emergency rooms are caused by a sometimes deadly bacterium that cannot be treated with conventional drugs.
The deadly superbug or Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is found to be responsible for 59% of skin and soft tissue infections in 11 emergency rooms across the united States. This was reported in a study carried out by doctors at the University of California. This study that was published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine revealed how the MRSA strain has become so widespread in the community.
"I think we were all surprised by how common and widespread it has become," said Rachel Gorwitz, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one of the study's authors.
MRSA is a type of bacterium resistant to some of the antibiotics. This usually occurs in patients with weak immune systems in hospitals and nursing homes and can be spread by poor hygiene.
Staphylococcus sp. had become resistant to Methicillin, a synthetic penicillin, within a decade of its introduction in the late 1950s. By 1997, about 40 percent of staph infections in hospitalized patients were found to be resistant to methicillin.
"It appears now that everyone is at risk," research team leader Gregory Moran said in a written statement. "So if you think you have a spider bite or other type of skin lesion that is not healing, you want to see your doctor to make sure it's not an infection like MRSA."
Findings reveal that doctors need to test the infections, when they become serious enough, to make sure that they are not of the MRSA strain.
MRSA accounted for 15% of the skin infections at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia 3 years ago. Now it has risen to 60%!!
Health officials in Pittsbugh, are so worried about the outbreaks that they are requiring pediatricians to report all cases to the health department.
"But until a few years ago, MRSA was uncommon outside of hospitals and nursing homes. Now, it has been identified as the cause of serious skin infections in otherwise healthy athletes, children in daycare, prisoners, soldiers, and rural Alaskans", said Arjun Srnivasan, a CDC medical epidemiologist.
The community-acquired MRSA is not as harmful as its hospital-bred cousin. But even it has caused the death of four children in Minnesota and North Dakota. Last year, two Allegheny County (Pa.) Jail inmates also died due to the infection.
"Susceptible groups have some risk factors in common", Srnivasan said, "close quarters, skin-to-skin contact, sharing towels or other personal hygiene items".
Regular hand washing with soap and water can prevent the spread of the infection. Personal items like towels and razors should not be shared.
MRSA has become a growing problem in many countries, causing difficult-to-treat infections. The number of deaths linked to MRSA jumped 22 percent between 2003 and 2004 in England and Wales.
Most pimples are caused by acne, which affects as many as 17 million people in the United States. It is usually created when the skin's pores are clogged with oil and dead skin cells.
"The most important treatment is actually draining the pus," Gorwitz said. Many times that is a cure all by itself, she said.
They can usually be treated by draining them and keeping the skin clean, but more severe infections may need antibiotics or hospitalization.