Health In Focus
  • ‘Superbug’ was a term coined sometime after 1970 to refer to bacteria that are resistant to various antibiotics.
  • MRSA (Methicillin–resistant Staphylococcus aureus), one such superbug commonly causes a host of diseases such as pneumonia, sepsis and skin infections.
  • The body’s resistance to antibiotics occurs naturally, due to various reasons, the most important one being misuse or overuse of antibiotics which ultimately aids in the formation of superbugs.

The discovery of antibiotics in the 20th century transformed medicine and treatment outcomes in many ways and saved countless lives.

Antibiotics taken when we have a bacterial infection are designed to attack and kill the bacteria causing the infection, however in the course of time these bacteria learn to adapt to the antibiotics and they change their structure in order to survive, thereby making the treatment with the particular antibiotic ineffective.
MRSA ‘Superbug’ - The Cause for Fatality in Influenza Patients Explained
MRSA ‘Superbug’ - The Cause for Fatality in Influenza Patients Explained

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is one such bacterium that has proven to be a great challenge to combat in the healthcare set up for years as they are resistant to a majority of antibiotics thereby making treatment a challenge.

Influenza the other name for flu is caused by a virus, most of the time flu is not a serious condition, but in some cases it can lead to serious complications. Influenza is a viral disease and is treated with anti-viral medications, in some cases the flu can cause other illnesses caused by bacteria, in such cases antibiotics will be used as a treatment option.

Secondary infection with MRSA is found to be fatal in patients with influenza and causes severe pneumonia, because the virus was found to change the normal response of the white blood cells. The white blood cells are the defenders in our body and their role is to attack and protect our body against infectious disease, due to the alteration of the white blood cells function by the virus, many influenza patients end up suffering from pneumonia eventually resulting in death of the patients.

In a recent study, mice infected with the influenza virus were found vulnerable to MRSA as the capability of their neutrophils to kill bacteria by releasing hydrogen peroxide and other reactive oxygen species is suppressed. Though the macrophages were not efficient in killing the bacteria the reactive oxygen species released by these cells brought about the death of inflammatory cells in the lungs.

When researchers impeded NADPH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate) oxidase 2  - (Nox2), a membrane-bound enzyme that produces the oxygen species, used by neutrophils to engulf microorganisms, it was found to reduce the extent of the damage to the lungs and when accompanied with antibiotic treatment, there was found to be a high survival rate in the infected mice.

The research team conclude that they can apply the similar principle in the treatment of humans, whereby treatment strategies must target both bacteria and reactive oxygen species to effectively treat patients with influenza complicated MRSA pneumonia. 

In time there will be more and more bacteria getting resistant to antibiotics thereby making treatment much more difficult. Doctors will soon be left with no choice but to prescribe less commonly used antibiotics, which in turn could have more side effects.

However in our own way to prevent the formation of superbugs we could follow a few simple tips:
  • Take a yearly flu vaccine, which would greatly reduce the incidence of flu illnesses, however consult, a doctor before taking the vaccination
  • Take the complete course of antibiotics as directed by the doctor in case of infection
  • Never take over the counter antibiotics or self-medicate
Lastly, following a good, healthy, active and lifestyle could go a long way in the prevention if not minimization of illness.

  1. MRSA infection - ( conditions/mrsa/basics/causes/con-20024479)
  2. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) - (
Source: Medindia

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