Thursday, April 8, 2010

VRSA in Philadelphia

The first U.S. case of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) since 2007 has been identified in a University of Pennsylvania hospital, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article published today. VRSA is an even more formidable but rare cousin of MRSA, an infection that kills over 19,000 people in the U.S. every year.

The most recent case is a woman on kidney dialysis who was infected both with MRSA and with
vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Vancomycin is used to prevent infection in kidney patients, exposing them to resistance risks. In this case, MRSA bacteria acquired resistance to vancomycin, the drug commonly used to treat MRSA, through genetic transfer from VRE bacteria.

VRSA infections are worrisome because vancomycin is often used as a drug of last resort when other antibiotics fail. Although VRSA is still susceptible to a limited number of antibiotics, these treatments are more costly and invasive than vancomycin and can have serious side effects. Like MRSA, VRSA can be transferred between individuals directly or through objects that have come into contact with infected patients, making it a potentially dangerous force in healthcare settings.

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