Staph Infection Spreading Among Gay Men
Researchers are reporting that a drug resistant staph infection that is possibly passed through sexual contact is spreading among gay men in a number of urban areas including Los Angeles, New York Boston and San Francisco. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was once confined to hospital patients, but in the last decade has been seen increasingly outside of medical settings with a number of cases being reported among school children and injection drug users.
The new strain seems to have “spread rapidly” in gay populations in San Francisco and Boston, the researchers wrote, and “has the potential for rapid, nationwide dissemination” among gay men.
The study was based on a review of medical records from outpatient clinics in San Francisco and Boston and nine medical centers in San Francisco.
The Castro district in San Francisco has the highest number of gay residents in the country, according to the University of California, San Francisco. One in 588 residents is infected with the new multidrug-resistant MRSA strain, the study found. That compares with 1 in 3,800 people in San Francisco, according to statistical analyses based on ZIP codes.
MRSA is passed through skin to skin contact or from surfaces contaminated with the bacteria. Doctors are encouraging people to scrub with soap and water to prevent skin-to-skin transmission of the infection particularly after sexual activities.
The infection can cause unusually severe problems, including abscesses and skin ulcers. The bacteria can invade through the skin to produce necrotizing fasciitis, giving them the popular name of flesh-eating bacteria. They can also cause pneumonia, damage the heart and produce widespread infection through the blood.