January 15, 2008
A drug-resistant strain of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is appearing among men who have sex with men in Boston and San Francisco, according to a study published online in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the New York Times reports (Altman, New York Times, 1/15). HIV-positive people "seem especially prone" to the infection, according to the San Francisco Chronicle (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15).
For the study, Binh Diep, a researcher at the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues reviewed the charts of 183 people treated for MRSA at the San Francisco General Hospital's Positive Health Program, an outpatient program for HIV-positive people. They also reviewed the charts of an additional 130 people at Fenway Community Health clinic in Boston. The review found that MSM ages 18 to 35 were the most likely to have the infection (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 1/15). According to a statistical analysis based on ZIP codes, one in 588 people in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood, which has the highest number of MSM residents nationwide, is living with MRSA, compared with one in 3,800 people across San Francisco. The study also found that MSM in San Francisco were 13 times more likely than other city residents to contract MRSA (New York Times, 1/15).
The study found MRSA spreads most often through anal intercourse but also can be spread through casual skin-to-skin contact or by touching contaminated surfaces. MRSA can cause abscesses and skin ulcers and can produce necrotizing facsiitis, or flesh-eating bacteria. The infection also can cause pneumonia, heart damage and blood infections. Among MSM in the study, MRSA was spread through skin-to-skin contact and caused abscesses and infection in the buttocks and genitals. The most effective way to prevent skin-to-skin transmission of MRSA is to wash with soap and water, particularly after sex, the researchers said (New York Times, 1/15).
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