Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bedside Reading

Maryn McKenna is the author of a new book released yesterday, "Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA," on the hospital, community, and environmental dangers of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. McKenna, a science and medical journalist with the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, discussed the book yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. You can listen to the interview here or read the transcript online.

In the interview, McKenna discusses the increased complication in treating MRSA infections due to crossover between what were originally separate healthcare-associated and community-associated MRSA strains. Now, she says, strains that were typically isolated to the hospital or to community settings (prisons and locker rooms, for example) are showing up in unexpected places and behaving in unexpected ways. As a result, doctors are not sure what the drug-resistance pattern of a given infection is -- and as a result, rely on prescribing the most intense drugs available. She also explains the dangers of low-dose antibiotics in farm animals, and the possibility of MRSA being transferred from animals to humans. Although she acknowledges that preventing the spread of MRSA and the development of resistance in general is difficult given the overprescription and overuse of antibiotics, as well as MRSA's resilience as an organism, McKenna does recommend a few things people can do to protect themselves: wash your hands, make sure your kids shower after sports, and use antibiotics appropriately.

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