Maryn McKenna has a typically great post about the rise and spread of a strain of multi-antibiotic resistant Staph aureus. It arose in Holland, where it spread to pigs, picked up resistance to the antibiotic tetracycline, and then jumped back into humans. Then it spread across the EU and into the US.
As is often the case, reading McKenna’s blog is fascinating, but sobering.
One of the persistent mysteries about ST398 is how far it has spread in the U.S.. That’s a very difficult question to answer, because no one is consistently doing the tests that would provide data. The national meat-testing scheme that looks for resistant organisms doesn’t test for any staph, let alone this particular strain; and physicians who find resistant staph in patients seldom go as far as checking which strain of the bug is causing the infection, because that information doesn’t affect treatment and so wouldn’t be reimbursed by an insurance company.
Thankfully, there are research groups looking into it. Scibling Tara Smith is the lead author on a recent paper that is trying to gain more information about the epidemiology of this bug (She posted some of her own thoughts on the study here).
Drug resistance is no joke, and it’s good to know we’ve got competent people looking into it.