MRSA bacteria (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are "superbugs" that have become resistant to antibiotics like methicillin.
In the last few decades, many bacteria have become resistant to all the antibiotics that medical research has developed.
Once this happens, these new drug-resistant superbugs can become lethal.
Is science losing the battle against superbugs?
While most researchers continue to look for new drugs against these life-threatening bacteria, some scientists are discovering possible ways of increasing the effectiveness of current drugs.
Green tea antibacterial action
For the last 10 years, green tea antibacterial research has shown that green tea has effective antibacterial action against MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, one of the superbugs that can be spread in hospitals.
A new study has confirmed the antibacterial action of green tea polyphenols against 17 different strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and 13 strains of oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Green tea improved drug effect
In addition to direct antibacterial action against all the strains, green tea also worked synergistically with oxacillin and increased the effectiveness of oxacillin by 8 to 128-fold (Cha Y, Antibacterial Effects of Green Tea Polyphenols on Clinical Isolates of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Current Microbiology, September 2008).
This research is considered preliminary and further studies are needed to find out if the polyphenols in a cup of green tea will be effective in other situations.
As of 2007, the CDC reports approximately 126,000 new hospitalizations for MRSA, with 94,000 serious cases and 19,000 deaths annually.
MRSA bacteria show increased mortality
A 2011 comprehensive study of 1265 hospital intensive care units in 75 countries found that patients with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus infections showed a 50% increase in mortality rates after excluding other variables.
The researchers recommended enhanced screening and isolation in these cases as the disease is very contagious (Hanberger H et al, Increased mortality associated with meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection in the Intensive Care Unit: results from the EPIC II study, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, September 2011).
Where do you get MRSA?
Environmental sources of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus include both food and water (for example, 2011 testing of tap water in New Delhi, India).
Food sources may include meat in US grocery stores. Independent researchers analyzed 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork, and turkey from 26 retail grocers in Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale Florida, Washington DC, and Flagstaff Arizona.
They found that 47% of the samples were contaminated with MRSA bacteria.
In addition, 52% of those bacteria were multi-drug resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics.
The researchers suggest that excessive antibiotic use in production practices is a possible source of the Staph contamination, rather than mishandling in the stores (Price L et al, April 2011, Clinical Infectious Diseases).
What does MRSA look like?
Here are some MRSA bacteria pictures:
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This page last updated by Sharon Jones.
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