News Stories

Even Football Players Get Superbugs

We're all wearing millions of bacteria, and some of these are antibiotic-resistant superbugs (MRSA). MRSA identifies a staph infection that is unable to be defeated by most penicillin-based drugs. Many people unknowingly carry MRSA on their skin as part of their bacteria and remain uninfected as long as they receive no cuts or scrapes to allow the bacteria to enter the body,.

A normal staph infection looks like a boil and remains in the skin. With MRSA, in the worst strains, the bacteria can eat down through the flesh to the bone in 36 hours.

Biologist Kathleen Dannelly became interested in studying MRSA in 2004 when an outbreak infected members of Indiana State University's football team. Players who received cuts and abrasions during games and practice found themselves diagnosed with MRSA and, in some cases, undergoing surgery for it.

Six years ago, Dannelly and her students conducted a blind sidewalk study, swabbing the noses (MRSA thrives in warm, moist places) of 500 students, faculty and staff. They found that a little over 1% carried MRSA bacteria. Five years later, Dannelly and her researchers again conducted the blind study and they found the number of MRSA carriers had grown to 2% percent of the study group. She says, "The people had no idea they were carrying it."

Researcher Anupama Ramalinga says, "If we don't know our enemy we can't defeat them. If we know our enemy, we can come up with new ways to defeat them. This type of research will help us understand the bacteria, why it’s becoming more robust, stronger."

What can WE do to keep ourselves free from Superbugs? Dannelly says that washing with antimicrobial soap and using a disinfectant in the nose can eliminate the microbes that cause the disease: "You can disinfect a person and change their flora."

She remind us that: "In the last year this organism has killed more people in the United States than AIDS. It's only going to get worse."

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