Dead Student Had Infection, Officials Say
If you don't know what MRSA is, you should. Its one of those infections that is getting a lot of press now because of some recent deaths in populations not generally considered high risk. (High risk would be people with compromised immune systems or in long term health care facilities.) In this case the victim was a child in Brooklyn.
New York City health officials said yesterday that a Brooklyn middle school student who died on Oct. 14 had become infected with a virulent, drug-resistant strain of bacteria that is primarily spread in hospitals but that in recent years has surfaced increasingly in schools, gyms and other nonhospital settings.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacteria present on many people's skin and in the noses of about 30% of people. About 2.6% of people have the MRSA variant, but even then that doesn't mean that that person is sick. Its not enough to simply have the bacteria around, it has to get into you somehow to do damage. Really, your skin does a pretty damn good job of protecting you from infection. When S. aureus causes an infection, its called a staph infection and the relative danger of the infection is dependent upon where it is; in the skin its ugly, but not as deadly as if it was in the valves of the heart or the blood.
So this MRSA is around, and it isn't bothered by methicillin or other beta-lactam antibiotics. For most bacteria there is a protein needed to correctly produce cell walls and it will bind with penicillin (and similar antibiotics) and not do its job. The cell wall becomes difficult to maintain and the cell lyses (breaks open, dies and spills its guts out). Well, these guys have a mutated form of that protein that doesn't bind these antibiotics and the cell just keeps on doing its thing. Which is no good for you if that thing its doing happens to be inside your blood.
I remember reading an article on the microbiology bulletin board Brandon Noble. A Washington Redskins defensive tackle, he lost a bunch of muscle in his leg after a MRSA infection got into his rebuilt left knee. Scary shit.
Read more about MRSA at the Mayo Clinic's website
I'll try to make the next post not about things that can kill you. No promises though.