Yesterday Maryn McKenna, writing on some of the infection risks run by first responders (see Putting their lives on the line: Meningitis in first responders), mentioned additional concerns many firefighters and paramedics have expressed about their exposure to MRSA.
In her report she referenced a University of Arizona study that looked for – and found – environmental MRSA contamination in Tucson Firehouses (UA Study, Training Keeps MRSA from Firefighting Communities)
We’ve another story on precisely the same topic – published yesterday on the University of Washington’s website – regarding a study of first responders who volunteered to be tested for staph colonization.
This research revealed that more than 20% of those first responders who agreed to be tested were colonized with MRSA, and an additional 10% carried S. Aureus in their nose.
To put this in perspective, here is what the CDC’s MRSA page has to say about the prevalence of these bacteria in the general population.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics called beta-lactams. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in healthcare settings.
While 25% to 30% of people are colonized* in the nose with staph, less than 2% are colonized with MRSA (Gorwitz RJ et al. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2008:197:1226-34.).
When a person carries the organism/bacteria but shows no clinical signs or symptoms of infection. For Staph aureus the most common body site colonized is the nose.
Although today’s report is based on a small study, a finding of a ten-fold greater rate of MRSA colonization among these first responders is more than a little concerning.
Additionally, as in Tucson, environmental MRSA contamination was also detected on a small number of surfaces in their workplace.
Follow the link to read the entire article.
Firefighters and medics may be, perhaps not surprisingly, at a higher risk for carrying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) than the average person, according to results from a new study conducted by Marilyn Roberts, a University of Washington professor of environmental and occupational health sciences. Roberts, a microbiologist, recently conducted the first-ever environmental health study on MRSA in Northwest fire stations and on fire personnel to determine the extent of related contamination.