Drug-Resistant Staph Not Only in Hospitals

New research and a recent death suggest MRSA may be closer than you think.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 9:07 PM

Oct. 16, 2007— -- After a weeklong hospitalization, Ashton Bonds, a high school student from Bedford, Va., died Monday after a mysterious infection had spread to his kidneys, liver, lungs and the muscles around his heart.

The infection turned out to be a drug-defying bug called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA.

What makes this case shocking is the fact that Bonds was seemingly healthy just weeks ago.

And the case seems to underscore another concern about the deadly infection -- once only a hospital-based concern, MRSA has spread its wings within the community setting as well.

A study released Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that out of the 8,987 cases of invasive MRSA reported over an 18-month period in nine states between 2004 and 2005, 58 percent -- more than half -- were associated with health care. This means that most such cases arose in places like hospitals and other medical care centers.

But even more surprising is that 14 percent of the cases originated in the community, highlighting the fact that while MRSA is a major public health problem that is primarily related to healthcare, it is no longer confined to the hospital setting.

Moreover, certain populations -- including those older than 65, blacks and males -- were disproportionately affected.

But disease experts say anyone can be affected by the disease.

"I have seen children with severe and fatal pneumonia from presumed -- or known -- community-acquired MRSA," said Dr. Jerome Klein, professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine.

"Although children and adults with underlying diseases are at risk, much of the community-acquired MRSA disease occurs in children without known risk factors."

Traditionally, staphylococcus aureus has been considered to be primarily a skin infection. However, the new research shows that the invasive form of the bug -- the one that enters the body and wreaks havoc within --