Brand new on the list of “Sexually Transmitted Diseases” is MRSA Infection, more commonly known as a “Flesh-eating Bacterial Infection.”
What’s new about this disease is not the fact that it exists at all, for it has been encountered for a long time in hospitals. In the hospital setting, it is known as a “hospital infection,” “nosocomial infection,” which means “an infection caused by the care given.” There in the hospital, MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureous) targets patients whose immune defenses are compromised by other serious illnesses or who have open wounds as a result of surgery or trauma.
Such infections spread more readily in hospitals, partly because the people gathered there are the most vulnerable, and partly because the caregivers there can act as vectors for the bacteria – without any signs of illness themselves. However, other places where many people live close to one another, in group homes, for example, or in certain jobs and in military barracks, may also be conducive to the spread of such infection. These potential “hot spots” have long been recognized as breeding grounds for the more dangerous bacterial infections.
What’s new, and what’s alarming, is that MRSA infections are now suspected to be transmitted by heterosexual activity, between husbands and wives and between other monogamous couples. *Infectious Disease News* (1), in its April 2007 issue, reported that three cases of heterosexual activity transmission of MRSA have been identified and confirmed in Manhattan.
In one of these cases, (quoting the article referenced above), “a woman reported multiple episodes of MRSA-positive abscesses during a three-month period. The woman’s boyfriend was in the military, and his unit had experienced an MRSA outbreak. Her episodes of MRSA-positive abscesses always followed visits from her boyfriend. He had boils on his face and groin, which were treated with antibiotics and incision and drainage.
“The woman, who regularly shaved her pubic area, had abscesses on her legs, groin and buttocks, and they were also treated with antibiotics and incision and drainage. Her symptoms would resolve until the next visit from her boyfriend, after which the abscesses would return. Although the woman’s nasal cultures were persistently negative for MRSA, the isolate obtained from her groin samples was SCC mec type IV.”
The other cases reported by *Infectious Disease News* were equally affirmative of MRSA transmission via sexual activity. Hospitals are no longer the only source of MRSA. Researchers at *The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention* (CDC) now report that 17% of drug-resistant staph infections are caught in the community and do not have any apparent links to health-care settings. More to the point, about half of these infections occured in people who share a bedroom! CDC’s Dr. Scott K. Fridkin reports, “Close to one-fifth of what used to be a hospital-specific problem is now a community problem.” (2)
Since MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) Infection is a rare but communicable (contagious) disease, and because this bacteria is resistant to many antibiotic medicines, the best treatment is strongly believed to be *Prevention.* In hospitals and other large social contexts, “Infection Control” methods are demanded and are conscientiously followed. Thorough hand-washing, sanitizing skin with alcohol before the insertion of needles or I.V.s, the wearing of barrier gloves, and other measures are demanded in hospitals, nursing homes, and such.
In private, personal lives, diligent cleanliness can go a long way toward prevention, too. Clean hands are always important. Experts also advise against the sharing of towels, razors, clothing and athletic equipment, whether at home or in some other social construct.
At home, clean bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens will also help to prevent the spread of MRSA among family members. In one of the cases reported by *Infectious Disease News*, the first patient seen from the family affected was their little 3-year old child. In this history, the mom and dad had unwittingly infected and reinfected each other sexually, and the child caught MRSA just from living in the same house with them.
Children, with their high probability of little scratches and cuts, are regularly open to invasion by these germs if they’re present in their environment. Therefore, it is highly recommended that open wounds, no matter how small the wound is, be carefully cleansed, then bandaged, to block germs’ entry into the body. Adults are well-advised to bandage their cuts and abrasions, too.
Prompt medical advice and treatment of skin problems, such as pimples, boils, and especially abscesses, is also crucial, especially those that manifest below the waistline in adults. They could be the beginning of a long and debilitating battle against the disfiguring condition that every one of us cringes against the mere mention of, the “flesh-eating bacterial infection” that invades the bloodstream, causes mortal illnesses, may lead to surgery including amputation, and resists antibiotic cure.
Now that we know just a few little pimples in the vaginal, groin, or genital or pubic area may be indicative of a serious, possibly life-threatening, attack of MRSA, doctors must consider the diagnosis of MRSA when these symptoms are seen. It is up to the sexually active person to monitor his or her own personal body parts for skin problems, no matter how minimal they may seem, no matter how hidden they are from public view.
(1) Infectious Disease News, April 2007, “Cases of heterosexual transmission of CA-MRSA recently reported’
(2) *The New England Journal of Medicine,* April 1, 2007
Other Online Sources:
Stephen T. Abedon, “Supplemental Lecture Outline: Nosocomial Infections”
*wiseGeek*, “What is a MRSA Infection?”