That super bug, methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), has been well-controlled in Denmark over the past 30 years. However, new reports state that MRSA transmission has risen ten times over the past ten years. Scientists were apprised of this dire situation at the 162nd meeting of the Society for General Microbiology. It seems that the rise is related to new and resistant strains of bacteria that have unleashed themselves on the community.
Professor Robert Skov of the Statens Serum Institut of Copenhagen, Denmark stated the issue with clarity, "The new threat is MRSA transmission in the community, without infected people visiting a hospital or care home themselves, where they might be expected to risk contact with drug resistant bacteria."
Skov underlines the fact that the rise in community acquired MRSA in the general population is a serious problem for all. Some of those infected will need hospitalization; others who come down with the resistant bug might be health care providers. All of this increases the risk that new strains of MRSA will be created and that the outbreaks will reach epidemic proportions. The strains of community MRSA appear to have evolved without any link to the hospital types of this resistant bug and have thus presented the health care profession with a new set of issues relating to disease control and treatment.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium that causes no harm most of the time and it resides on the skin and in the noses of 25-40% of the population. If, however, the germ enters a cut, wound, or catheter, the result can be an infection. While most infections aren't serious and manifest as boils or pimples, in some cases these infections become very severe and affect the blood, bones, and joints of the body.
With the discovery of penicillin, the medical profession was at last able to control such infections, until such time as resistance to antibiotics became a widespread problem. Now, new and scary strains of the bacterium have evolved, with MRSA being the major example. MRSA and other super bugs are very difficult to treat and can even be fatal in those with compromised immune systems or low white blood cell counts.
Denmark has controlled MRSA so well that less than one per cent of the population has been affected over the last 30 years. It is unfortunate that in 1997, a new strain of MRSA independent of the type found in hospitals and nursing homes was found within the community. At first, a young adult and two families in a rural town contracted the bug. On investigation, it was found that the bug was transmitted first through a kindergarten, then a school, a factory, and a farm. From 1999-2006, the number of community acquired MRSA infections rose from 11-175 per year, and this figure occupied up to 22% of all MRSA infections.
The common method of contagion appeared to be from one family member to another, and young people most affected. Many of those families afflicted by MRSA were found to have relatives in countries having a populace with a high number of MRSA infections.
As a response to this issue, the Danish health system has introduced new guidelines for preventing the spread of MRSA. Since the institution of these guidelines, a slight decrease in the number of cases has been observed.