News | January 23, 2008

CDC Monitors New Strain of MRSA Among Gay Men

January 24, 2008 – The Centers for Disease Control have been monitoring reports of a new strain of MRSA skin infections that are primarily centered around populations of homosexual men in Boston and San Francisco.

MRSA is a common cause of skin infections throughout the U.S. These infections occur in men, women, adults, children and persons of all races and sexual orientations, and are known to be transmitted by close skin-to-skin contact. In the January issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diep et al looked at isolates of MRSA - USA300 strains containing a particular plasmid associated with additional drug resistance. The paper shows that multidrug-resistant USA300 has emerged as an important source of disease among men who have sex with men in the two geographically distinct communities.

While the strains of MRSA described in the recent Annals of Internal Medicine have mostly been identified in groups of gay men, it has also been found in some heterosexuals. It is important to note that the groups of gay men in which these isolates have been described are not representative of all gays, so conclusions cannot be drawn about the prevalence of these strains among all gay men. The groups studied in this report may share other characteristics or behaviors that facilitate spread of MRSA, such as frequent skin-to-skin contact.

CDC’s extensive and continuing study of invasive MRSA in nine U.S. states indicates these strains are rare. CDC continues to monitor resistance patterns and strain characteristics in MRSA isolates submitted to CDC for a variety of investigations. The bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics is concerning because this strain is becoming resistant to more antibiotics than the typical community associated-MRSA strains. The CDC says this limits the available treatment options.

MRSA is typically transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, which occurs during a variety of activities, including sex. There is no evidence at this time to suggest this strain of MRSA is a sexually-transmitted infection in the classical sense, CDC officials said.

To help prevent the spread of staph or MRSA skin infections to others, the following steps are suggested:

1. Cover wounds. Keep wounds that are draining or have pus covered with clean, dry bandages. Pus from infected wounds can contain staph and MRSA, so keeping wounds covered will help prevent the spread to others.

2. Wash your hands. Anyone in close contact should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing the bandage or touching the infected wounds.

3. Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing, or uniforms that may have had contact with infected wounds or bandages. Wash sheets, towels, and clothes with water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.

4. Talk to your doctor. Tell any healthcare providers who treat you that you have or had a staph or MRSA skin infection.

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