WHAT IS MRSA: MRSA is a common cause of skin infections; it can also cause pneumonia, ear infections and sinusitis. MRSA bacteria are sometimes dubbed 'superbugs' because they are highly resistant to common antibiotics like penicillin, making infections difficult to treat effectively. Bacteria are highly adaptive, and over time they naturally develop resistance, protecting them from incoming germs (and antibiotics) and making them harder to kill. If MRSA enters the body through the skin, it can cause irritating skin infections, but if it enters the lungs or bloodstream, it can cause serious blood infections, pneumonia, even death. MRSA infection rates in the US have been increasing since 1970, largely because surveillance programs to monitor its spread are not effective. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark have all but eliminated MRSA from their hospitals through such surveillance programs, which focus on screening patients for MRSA at admission and isolating any carriers.
DRUG RESISTANCE: Bacteria are highly adaptive, and over time they naturally develop resistance, protecting them from incoming germs (and antibiotics), which makes them more difficult to kill. If someone has strep throat, for example, repeated exposure to penicillin and amoxicillin can result in a throat full of bacteria that can shield strep germs from the older drugs. The surviving bacteria then reproduce more and become more dominant. Sometimes parents discontinue antibiotic medication prematurely when they or their children begin to feel better, so the strep germ isn't entirely killed off, leading to much more severe infections requiring the use of even stronger drugs later on. This can also happen with many other infections inside the body and on the skin.
The American Physical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report. This report has also been produced thanks to a generous grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.