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Tea and coffee may help fight MRSA

19th July 2011

People who drink tea or coffee may harbour less methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in their nostrils, according to a recent US study.

MRSA1

The researchers found a tentative link between drinking one of the caffeinated drinks and carrying the deadly bacterium, which may cause life-threatening pneumonia and blood infections.

The superbug is also known to cause skin infections that may require medical attention.

On average, about 1% of the general population carries MRSA in their nostrils or in their skin without becoming ill.

In theory, these people then pass the bacterium on to people who have less resistance.

For the study, the researchers gathered more than 5,000 study subjects and had them tested for levels of MRSA.

About 1.4% of the study subjects had detectable levels of MRSA bacteria in their nostrils, and people who drank hot tea or coffee were 50% less likely to harbour the bacteria, even after the researchers accounted for factors that might influence the statistical outcome.

The idea for the study came from studies which showed that tea extract seemed to fight MRSA, both in vitro and when applied as a skin ointment.

Lead researcher Eric Matheson, of the University of South Carolina in the US, said that there was also some evidence that coffee compounds were potent antibacterial agents.

However, the study only shows that there is a statistical link between MRSA bacteria and hot tea or coffee.

Matheson said that researchers could never conclude causation from an association, and that the finding could just be a coincidence.

He said that people should not see coffee or tea as MRSA cure-alls.

In the US, MRSA caused an estimated 19,000 deaths in 2005, and infections due to the bacteria have been steadily increasing for the past several decades.

The superbug causes major problems in hospitals and nursing homes, due to the fact that people's immune systems are usually in a weaker state.

MRSA makes surgery very difficult, and can wreak havoc on open wounds.

 

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