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MRSA in U.S. becoming resistant to over the counter ointment
September 14th, 2011
03:00 PM ET

MRSA in U.S. becoming resistant to over the counter ointment

Frequent use of over-the-counter anti-bacterial ointments in the United States may be leading to a new, antimicrobial resistant strain of MRSA, a study published Wednesday in Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s monthly peer-reviewed journal.

Japanese researchers made the finding after testing 259 MRSA strains for susceptibility to bacitracin and neomycin, two of the antibacterial ingredients commonly found in over-the-counter ointments like Neosporin and Polysporin. Resistance to bacitracin and neomycin was only found in USA300, a type of MRSA found in the United States.

Masahiro Suzuki, with the Aichi Prefectural Institute of Public Health in Nagoya, Japan, said the triple antibiotic ointment is rarely used outside North America. That led his research team to conclude there may be a link between the frequent use of the over-the-counter treatment and the this MRSA strain becoming antibiotic-resistant.

“People should understand that triple antibiotic is not almighty, and avoid preventive or excessive use of this ointment,” Suzuki said in an e-mail to CNN.

MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, results most commonly in skin  infections. It use to be mainly transmitted in hospitals but is now increasingly acquired in community settings like athletic facilities.  For some a MRSA infection can be deadly.

MRSA resulted in 278,000 hospitalizations and more than 18,000 deaths in 2005, according to one study, with most of those infections coming from health care facilities. An estimated 1.5% of the U.S. population – more than 4 million Americans – are now carriers of the bacteria.

MRSA infections have been a problem in hospitals for more than four decades, but a recent study suggests the infection rate is declining in the United States.  MRSA is resistant to common antibiotics like penicillin and amoxicillin.

The USA300 strain of MRSA can still be treated with vancomycin and other drugs, but doctors in the United States should be aware “the ointment therapy may not be effective in USA300 infections,” Suzuki said.

To prevent MRSA in health care facilities, the CDC recommends doctors, nurses and other health care providers wash their hands and wear and gown and gloves while taking care of patients with MRSA. The CDC also recommends that rooms and equipment are thoroughly cleaned. MRSA can spread from person to person and via bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures, and medical equipment.

The CDC recommends athletes do not to share items that come in contact with the skin such as towels, soap, razors. The health agency also recommends athletes wear protective clothing designed to prevent abrasions and cuts, and shower or wash immediately after using shared equipment like weights or exercise equipment.


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soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. John

    How about making it a law that scrubs can not be worn leaving the hospital or clinic? That would be one way of containing it a bit better than we do now.

    September 14, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      I could see how that might help, but it may be a little ridiculous on the request. Hospital care providers and other staff (including janitorial and maintenance) are only part of solving the puzzle to contain this pesky bacteria. Many of the patients come and go to and from clinics via emergency transport and private ambulance transport and take this bacteria with them. As the article said, people with this are usually put on isolation, but measures to contain it are sometimes poorly followed anyway...

      Problems arise from family, friends, and other non-staff personnel that come in and out of the room and don't understand how/why the isolation is in place. As a result, it is sometimes ignored and leads to bacteria being taken from the patient's room out of the hospital and into the community.

      September 14, 2011 at 23:38 | Report abuse |
  2. amy

    just use baking soda, dust it on. it HATES it. don't over do it, just a lite dusting.

    September 14, 2011 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wrong

      My best friend is having surgery one week from today for a MRSA wound that she has had since early June. BAKING SODA DOES NOT WORK!!! Please do not tell people to attempt home remedies for this as it can be quite serious. This wound will have to be cut open, evacuated, and left open to heal from the inside out. There is no easy fix for this and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible.

      September 15, 2011 at 09:45 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I put backing soda on a patient'sMRSA infection and I watched in delight as the bacteria ran away in fear. It was an exodus of biblical proportion. I also have also used baking soda to cure athlete's feet, HIV infections, TB, cold sores, and all other known viral and bacterial ailments. It is just so incredibly powerful!! Why didn't I take it out of my freezer sooner?? LOL

      September 15, 2011 at 10:18 | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      Awesome! Will it work for my flesh-eating strep infection as well?!

      September 15, 2011 at 11:01 | Report abuse |
    • J.C.

      Will baking powder work just as well?

      September 16, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
  3. Johnny

    Use Manuka Honey on the wound-clear up that MRSA fast. By the way, MRSA is transmitted by Air Condition Systems. Places like Air Ports, airplane, and hospital Air Conditioning units are so full of molds and bacteria-yet these systems are not maintained because of cost. If you saw these poorly maintained systems you would not go there!

    September 15, 2011 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      Nothing about this is correct except that... airports, airplanes, and hospitals do indeed have air conditioners.

      September 16, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
  4. gale

    I have a friend whose little girls kept getting it and neither of them were even in school yet. She a stay at home mom as well. I don't think they really know how it spreads. My son got it a couple of times while in high school so I could understand where he was coming in contact with it but not the little girls so much. I suppose at the library or the occasional playground. Most likely it's air borne as well.

    September 15, 2011 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      MRSA is spread by contact with a person/surface/clothing that has the bacteria alive on it. It is not airborne.

      September 16, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
  5. Elisa

    Here's my issue with articles like this: if the bacteria is becoming resistant to the antibiotic ointment, that's because the bacteria has COME INTO CONTACT WITH (and has been stopped by!) THE OINTMENT! Meaning, the person who used it preventatively could very easily have acquired MRSA had they not been using it. If MRSA doesn't encounter the preventative measure, it doesn't become resistant, right? The logic seems faulty. Yes, MRSA adapts but this doesn't mean we remove every defense against it in order to prevent the adaptation of the bacteria.

    September 15, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      I have personal experience with Staph/MRSA. I watched Dr's give my niece generic antibiotics for a Staph skin infection, and by the time my son wound up with sores a couple months later it was MRSA. I would wager 9 times out of 10 Doctors are the reason Staph becomes MRSA. Because doctors rely on antibiotics too much. Period. One Western European country did away with antibiotics (except when extremely needed) and now they have no Staph/MRSA problem. Your best bet is to find a natural method of killing MRSA (there are quite a few, all effective), or even try Colloidal/Ionic silver. Stop expecting big pharma to make a fix all pill, and you'll find that nature can heal a lot. You can google for natural healing of MRSA yourself. :-) The truth is out there.

      September 15, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse |
    • Pharm

      Chris,
      The problem isn't the anibiotic, its the pressure put on physicians to prescribe anibiotics by the parents for things that arent bacterial in nature. Anibiotics work on one thing, bacteria. Period. Not for viruses, which are actually the most common cause of illness. Second point, don't tell people to use home remidies, its like playing with fire while filling your gas tank. The home remidies don't work 99% of the time. The sores your son got where probably not even related to your niece and her "generic antibiotics", bc by the time your son was infected, he had been 100 different places and contacted Staph every single day on his skin, cloths, doorknobs, etc.

      September 19, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
  6. Andrew

    can't say I'm surprised, it says right on the box of neosporin tubes not to over use because it can cause resistance in bacteria

    September 16, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sue

    Everyone should go see the movie Contagion and realize that we must all do our part in things as simple as washing our hands really well teaching our children to do the same. While the movie, Contagion, is about a virus and not bacteria, the principle of what we each can do for ourselves on a daily basis very similar to helping us stay healthy.

    There are all kinds of bacteria naturally on our hands and other parts of our body and they multiply very fast. Their numbers DOUBLE every 20 minutes, naturally. Yes, that's right. We are always touching things and each other with our hands. To keep our own personal bacteria "count" low in numbers, WASH YOUR HANDS very well and do it every time after you use the bathroom and always before eating. Always wash a wound well with soap and warm water and use antibacterial ointments ONLY if it seems really necessary...and don't pile the ointment on over and over again. In general, try to keep your natural bacterial count low with good personal hygiene to keep from getting sick in the first place. If you try to decimate bacteria with massive amounts of oral antibiotics (penicillin, etc.) or antibacterial creams on a routine basis, the bacteria can mutate and come back stronger, such as with MRSA. As funny as it sounds, the emulsion of soap bubbles makes the skin surface slick and bacteria can't hold on so they wash off, just like when washing clothes. It's best also to try not to live in a bubble by overusing antibacterial household cleansers so that your body can develop its own natural immunities to the bacteria it encounters and can more easily fight them off when exposed.

    September 17, 2011 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pharm

      Thank you for not being an idiot and making valid, inteligent comments. Well said.

      September 19, 2011 at 12:13 | Report abuse |
  8. ANGELS

    TELL THE PUBLIC TO TELL THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THAT THE BUG WILL NOT GO AWAY ON ITS OWN WE NEED TO GET THIS UNDER CONTROL WITH PROPER PROTO CALL ALL THE WAY UP THE LADDER DOCTORS LAB COATS SHOULD BE REMOVED BEFORE GETTING CLOSE TO PATIENTS AND HOSPITALS ARENT DISINFECTED RIGHT!

    September 18, 2011 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Soo Laverette

    My dream retirement would be no bills, no worries and wonderful health.

    August 29, 2013 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply

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