superbug spreads outside of hospital into sports clubs and
• 100 people in 3 years infected with
MRSA despite no hospital connection
MRSA variant spreads through cuts and abrasions
"MRSA is becoming a
significant danger outside healthcare settings. These bugs are
pandemic. It is more of a future threat in Britain than a
current one, but they are taking it very seriously in the
United States" - Dr Mark Enright, University of
Story in full THE risk of contracting the
superbug MRSA also exists in sports clubs
and gyms, health protection experts warned yesterday.
Initially, the bug was a problem affecting hospitals and
nursing homes and was concentrated mainly among the elderly,
who have weaker immune systems.
However, 100 people in three years have been infected by a
new variant of the disease that affects people with no
connection to a hospital or other healthcare institution.
Among areas identified as potentially hazardous are clubs
that use communal changing areas, where the bug could be
passed on through a dirty towel.
Protection Agency (HPA) said that Community-Acquired MRSA
(CA-MRSA) was most commonly seen in prisons, among intravenous
drug users and homosexual men.
Dr Mark Enright, at the University of Bath, said: "MRSA is
becoming a significant danger outside healthcare settings.
These bugs are pandemic. It is more of a future threat in
Britain than a current one, but they are taking it very
seriously in the United States."
The cases, which had all occurred in England and Wales,
included one fatality, when a 28-year-old woman died from
pneumonia after contracting CA-MRSA.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "MRSA is a
methicillin-resistant mutation of a common bacterium called
Staphylococcus Aureus, found on 30 per cent of people.
"We are now aware of a small number of cases of a mutation
of this bacterium that spreads through cuts and abrasions and
causes soft-tissue and skin infections in otherwise healthy
people outside of the hospital environment.
"Nearly all cases of this bacterium result in nasty skin or
joint infections but these are treatable with antibiotics."
The Department of Health advises people to pay attention to
personal hygiene in order to avoid infection - washing hands
and showering after sport, carefully cleaning cuts and
abrasions, keeping wounds and cuts covered and seeking medical
help at any sign of infection.
The number of deaths where the normal strain of MRSA -
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus - has been a
factor have doubled in four years, with 955 in 2003.
The Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman Paul Burstow said
the government must take action to reduce the threat of the
He said: "These cases are worrying and demonstrate that we
face an uphill battle in tackling these superbugs.
"The appearance of MRSA in the community illustrates just
how important it is not just to tackle infections in hospitals
but also to have a clear strategy for sensible use of existing
antibiotics and the development of new ones."
However, a Scottish expert on the spread of infection
played down the impact the disease has had north of the
Border. Dr John Cowden, an epidemiologist at Health Protection
Scotland, said it could be assumed from routine surveillance
of the bug that almost all cases were acquired in hospitals.
"We cannot be exact about the number acquired in the
community but it must be extremely small and likely to involve
only groups that introduce things into their bloodstream."
The risks to sports players were not great, he said. "To a
rugby player, for example, tetanus remains a greater