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Superbugs

By Evelyn Lee

November 30, 2022

UPDATED 12:00 PM EST


[Photo credit: Wikipedia.org]


Although many might deem a hospital environment as being sterile and impossibly clean, it’s not at all unheard of to contract an illness or infection from one’s hospital stay. Nosocomial infections can happen through a multitude of ways– through normal means like doorknobs or elevator buttons, or more serious means such as a surgical mishap. Nosocomial infections also tend to consist of ‘superbugs,’ or pathogens that are especially resistant to most commercial antibiotics and medications, which can often prove to be expensive, time-consuming, and fatal to treat.

Superbugs come in many forms, but the most notorious one is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA spreads through contact with other infected individuals or objects, such as coming into contact with an infected razor, catheter, or towels. Although around ⅓ of the population are naturally colonized, or carry staph bacteria on their skin, around 1% of the US population also carry MRSA. MRSA’s main characteristic of being resistant to most antibiotics derives from improper use of antibiotics in the first place. For instance, if a person doesn’t complete their round of antibiotics (or if they don’t complete it in the correct timeframe), this may result in the patient still harboring infectious bacteria in their body. Although most of the bacteria would’ve already died from the medication, the ones that remain are now more resistant against that particular antibiotic (since they’re the lone survivors.) Repeat this process multiple times, and it’s easy to see how something as dangerous as MRSA would come to fruition.

The main problem with MRSA is the difficulty of treating it. The list of antibiotics that it’s resistant to is long, but it includes methicillin, penicillin, amoxicillin, and oxacillin, or essentially an entire group of commonly-prescribed antibiotics called ‘beta-lactams.’ As a result, if one were to get treated for MRSA, they would have to take more heavy-duty antibiotics that can harm their own body’s natural bacteria. Even then, MRSA can reinfect people later on, even if they already completed their treatment, further complicating things. In the US, the number of cases for MRSA in hospital settings have been on the rise, from 850 cases in 2009 to almost 3,700 in 2019. In terms of mortality rate, people who get infected with MRSA that haven’t already been a silent carrier of it have an 18% mortality rate, while people who are colonized by MRSA have a 36% mortality rate.


References

MRSA | CDC. www.cdc.gov/mrsa/index.html. Accessed 15 Oct. 2022.


“MRSA - Disease Prevalence Report 2020.” SSI, en.ssi.dk/surveillance-and-preparedness/surveillance-in-denmark/annual-reports-on-disease-incidence/mrsa---disease-prevalence-report-2020. Accessed 15 Oct. 2022.


“MRSA Infection - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 1 Dec. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mrsa/symptoms-causes/syc-20375336.


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