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MRSA attacks youngsters

19th January 2007

02082006_MRSA1.jpgBritish youngsters could be susceptible to a new deadly strain of MRSA.

PVL-MRSA is particularly dangerous because it attacks the young and healthy, killing them quickly by causing a lung-destroying pneumonia.  Healthcare Today first reported on this new strain of MRSA in December when two young hospital workers succumbed to the superbug.  Since then experts have called for urgent fast-track NHS tests in order to trace the spread of the disease. Existing detection methods can take up to 14 days but the bug can kill within 24 hours.

New forms of the superbug, called community associated MRSA (CA-MRSA), spread rapidly and easily, especially amongst school children.  CA-MRSA produces a toxin called PVL (Panton-Valentine Leukocidin) which destroys the body’s white blood cells resulting in skin infections, a serious flesh-eating disease or life-threatening pneumonia.  As a skin-disease, CA-MRSA is relatively harmless but the superbug can be deadly if it gets into the bloodstream.  Experts are worried that young children will succumb to the more serious side-effects of the bug before it has been detected. "We have no surveillance. At the moment we have no screening for CA-MRSA in the community, and no rapid detection of PVL,? said Professor Richard James, director of the Centre for Healthcare Associated Infections at the University of Nottingham.  He has called for a national screening system to identify all MRSA strains.

There has long been concern about a variant of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, which no longer responds to the usual antibiotics and results in hospital strains of MRSA which mainly affect the elderly and infirm.  However, these new aggressive forms of CA-MRSA are now also affecting hospital wards giving rise to increasing fears for the safety of patients.  Professor James has said that more sophisticated ways of dealing with the superbugs are needed to prevent a national epidemic.

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