Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MRSA - Rapid Blood Test

On January 28, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its approval to begin marketing the first rapid blood test for the drug-resistant staph bacterium known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA is a dangerous mutant strain of bacterium resistant to methicillin, an antibiotic that has previously been used successfully to treat Staphylococcus aureus infections. MRSA can cause potentially life-threatening infections to your blood stream... surgical site infections... even pneumonia, and has an even higher fatality rate! MRSA has long been a problem in the health care setting, but it is increasingly a community problem as well.

The test, known as the BD GeneOhm StaphSR Assay, can differentiate the methicillin-resistant variant from the methicillin-susceptible variant in two hours, rather than the 24 to 48 hours or longer that currently available technology takes. Distinguishing between the two sources of infection is critical to successful treatment. Studies leading to the test's approval found that it could identify 100% of MRSA samples and 98% of the susceptible types. According to an FDA statement, this test should be used in patients already suspected of having a staph infection but not to monitor treatment or initially detect it.

"This test is good news for the public health community," said Daniel G. Schultz, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. This test previously was given FDA approval to identify colonized patients. The product's manufacturer, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.), is pursuing U.S. approvals for it to be used for nasal swabbing and the detection of MRSA in wounds.

Doctors still might have to conduct follow-up testing to pin down precisely what will kill particular bacteria, but physicians say the information provided by this product will be enough to narrow down treatment choices early on. According to Ed Septimus, MD, an infectious disease physician in Houston and a board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, "Compared to what we have now, this is terrific. We will be able to get appropriate treatment to the patient much faster, and we will be able to intervene at a much earlier time so transmission does not occur." Initially, this test most likely will be used on the sickest, hospitalized patients.

Although there is a lot of hope for the test's potential, there are also concerns. Experts, for instance, expect there may be a lag between this test becoming available and doctors becoming comfortable enough with it to use it for decision-making. "Having more tools is good, but there's going to be a certain learning curve," said Thomas Fekete, MD, professor of medicine and an infectious disease specialist at Temple University in Philadelphia. "And I don't know if laboratories will be financially prepared to take on this new technology. I'm not saying it's not worth it, but there's a price to pay."

Experts say getting a better handle on MRSA is key, because evidence is accumulating that it may be far more common than previously thought. A study in the December 2007 American Journal of Infection Control found that nationally, 46.3 per 1,000 in-patients carried the bacteria. Of these, at least 34 were infected and 12 were colonized. The remainder of cases were unclassified. Approximately 70% of cases appear to have been contracted in the health care setting. The authors suspect that the true numbers may be much higher. Only 29% of institutions surveyed actively hunted for these bacteria, and most did not use highly sensitive means to do it.

"This is the minimum estimate, because the majority are not doing screening and [are] testing by less sensitive methods. It's a much bigger problem than anyone had predicted," said William Jarvis, MD, lead author on that paper and a consultant with Jason & Jarvis Associates, a private firm that provides expertise on public health, infection control and patient safety. Other papers have documented MRSA's impact. One of the most recent, in the Oct. 17 2007, Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated that there were 94,360 cases of invasive MRSA infections and 18,650 deaths in 2005. Patients older than 65 were particularly vulnerable.

For those not wanting to take chances on uncertain, delayed treatment, it's good to know that there is a completely 100% natural product that can not only KILL MRSA, but may also prevent the potentially life-threatening infection from harming you. Prevention of infectious diseases is far more preferable than any treatment, even a successful one.

Natural MRSA Fighter

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