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Fears over new superbug strain beyond hospita -

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Fears over new superbug strain beyond hospital walls

The World Today - Thursday, 26 March , 2009 12:46:00

Reporter: Sara Everingham

ELEANOR HALL: Antibiotic resistant staph infections have been known to cause havoc in hospitals but
infectious disease experts are warning that a variant of the bacteria is becoming more common in
the community.

Researchers at the Mater Children's Hospital in Brisbane have found a community-acquired strain of
the bug now makes up 12 per cent of all staph infections.

Sara Everingham has our report.

SARA EVERINGHAM: In the past staph infections have been acquired in hospitals but now they're
increasingly being acquired in the community.

Associate Professor Clare Nourse, a paediatric infections specialist at the Mater Children's
Hospital in Brisbane has just delivered a paper on the subject at an infectious diseases conference
in the Hunter Valley.

CLARE NOURSE: The first reports were in the early '90s which were sporadic reports in certain
communities. But now based on some recent research at the Mater Children's Hospital we suspect that
10 to 12 per cent of children and probably adults too may have the resistant version of the bug
when they develop staph aureus infections.

SARA EVERINGHAM: And this is the community acquired...


SARA EVERINGHAM: MRSA is methicillin-resistant staph aureus and that's a bug that's resistant to a
group of antibiotics. MRSA is what's existed in hospitals and it's a strain of MRSA that's being
seen increasingly in the community.

CLARE NOURSE: It has a great propensity for spread. It spreads easily, usually through skin-to-skin
contact. So it spreads quickly through communities with high numbers of people living in a
household or through sports which involve a lot of skin-to-skin contact.

SARA EVERINGHAM: And how serious is it, this community-acquired strain?

CLARE NOURSE: Usually when children or adults develop staff aureus, staphylococcus aureus
infections, they involve the skin and manifest as boils, infected mosquito bites, impetigo, school
sores. You can get, patients can develop infected wounds. And usually they're mild infections but
the significant fact now is that they may not respond to the traditional antibiotics we use.

However in small numbers of cases these infections can progress on and patients can develop
bloodstream infections, pneumonia, arthritis and life-threatening infection in a small number of

SARA EVERINGHAM: There are differences between the hospital and community-acquired strains,
particularly when it comes to treatment and Clare Nourse says proper diagnosis is essential.

CLARE NOURSE: It is important now that this strain has emerged in the community that we don't
assume that it will respond to the usual antibiotics we prescribe like flucloxacillin, kefalexin.
It's important now that staph aureus infection before they're treated are swabbed and a sample of
the material is sent to the laboratory so that we can identify exactly what the bug is.

SARA EVERINGHAM: And using the right antibiotics will also prevent the community-acquired strain of
the bug from becoming resistant to more antibiotics.

Warren Grubb is an emeritus professor of microbiology at Curtin University.

WARREN GRUBB: In the past the strain could be treated with some of the very old antibiotics before
these new antibiotics were introduced, these newer betalactans. And what we're finding is that we
have isolating community strains which are acquiring resistance to these other antibiotics and
that's a worry. So the worry is that they'll become multi-resistant like the hospital MRSA.

SARA EVERINGHAM: And is there anything that can be done about that to prevent that?

WARREN GRUBB: You can let people know that these strains are around and what they can be treated

SARA EVERINGHAM: Associate Professor Clare Nourse wants more to be done to make sure the community
acquired strain of MRSA is properly diagnosed and treated.

ELEANOR HALL: Sara Everingham reporting.