bugs are winning, unfortunately, and we need to catch up," said Dr.
Loren G. Miller, one of the researchers at Harbor-UCLA Medical
Center. "We really need to rapidly develop antibiotics to catch up
with the bugs and start using antibiotics more appropriately."
Staph bacteria are a common cause of skin
infections. Healthy people may carry the bacteria on their skin and
in their noses. When infections occur, they are mostly pimples and
boils, but the germ can cause serious surgical wound infections,
bloodstream infections and pneumonia.
Three-quarters of the community-acquired cases in
the CDC study were skin infections, but 23 percent of the cases were
serious enough to require hospitalization.
Staph bacteria resistant to the penicillin drug
family are called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or
The CDC researchers checked up to two years of
lab reports for drug-resistant staph. More than 80 percent of the
12,553 cases were excluded because the patients had been
hospitalized, had a history of surgery or dialysis or had another
Children at highest risk
About 17 percent overall, or 2,107 cases, were
determined to be community-acquired staph. The rate was 20 percent
in Atlanta, 12 percent in Minnesota and 8 percent in Baltimore.
"When they got out in the community, it was felt
these strains weren't strong enough to make it on their own. That no
longer appears to be the case," said Dr. Henry F. Chambers of the
University of California at San Francisco, who wrote an accompanying
The CDC research found that children under 2 were
at higher risk, which could be because children get more cuts and
scrapes. Blacks in Atlanta were found to be at higher risk than
whites. In cases confirmed through interviews, half were in people
who shared a bedroom, and only about one in 10 were in day care.
Fridkin said the study might have underestimated
drug-resistant staph out in the community because not all cases are
sent to labs for analysis.
Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology
at NYU Medical Center, said people can help prevent staph infections
by washing their hands, using an antiseptic and a bandage on all
cuts and scrapes, and avoiding the sharing of towels, razors,
clothing and athletic equipment.
"People should be aware that something that looks
like an innocent infection might have a serious consequence," said
Tierno, who wrote "The Secret Life of Germs."