Bugs Without Borders

How MRSA gets around - no boarding pass required!

Suppose we find a huge increase in MRSA someplace in the world, far away from us, in Ireland, say. We would obviously be concerned for their health, but would an outbreak there have any bearing on our life here, thousands of miles and an ocean away?

I ask the question because a report out of – you guessed it, Ireland – yesterday tells us they have discovered a huge rise in MRSA over a 10 year period ending in 2011.

The report is based on a study by researchers at University College Dublin who have documented a 44-fold increase in the prevalence of MRSA – identifying 16 distinct clones (different types) of MRSA – as well as finding a six-fold increase in the number of MRSA samples resistant to multiple antibiotics.

In other words, they’re discovered a greater overall number of Bad Bugs, more different kinds of Bad Bugs, and more Bad Bugs that antibiotics won’t work on.

Prof David Coleman of UCD, one the authors of the report, says their findings constitute an “unprecedented level” of change that is a “worrying development” and therefore it is “vital to ensure that these strains do not spread and become more established.”

Spread where, here?

You betcha. And the explanation is globalization – we are One World now – and specifically, this includes the country-to-country spread of MRSA.

Professor Coleman puts it this way: “It is not a phenomenon unique to Ireland,” because “international travel increases the mixing of different community strains, helping to cause the very high level of [MRSA] diversity.”

Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. agrees. He expressed his concern in an editorialSafer Countries Through Global Health Security, in The Lancet. The title itself tells the story: health, now, is viewed from a global perspective.

Look at SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), he says. What began as an outbreak in 2002 and 2003 in southern China caused an eventual 8,273 cases and 775 deaths in multiple countries around the world including Canada.

“Disease is just a plane trip away, and an outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere,” says Dr. Frieden.

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2 Responses to “Bugs Without Borders”

  1. […] emerging new rule of infectious disease, based on a growing and growing mobile world population: “Disease is just a plane trip away, and an outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere,” says Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. Or, as Dr. […]

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