Many kids carry the superbug MRSA: study

An employee displays MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria strain inside a petri dish containing agar jelly for bacterial culture in a microbiological laboratory in Berlin March 1, 2008. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many children may be carrying the drug-resistant “superbug” MRSA in their nasal passages, unbeknownst to anyone, research suggests. Investigators at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, report that MRSA “is widespread among children in our community.”

Dr. Stephanie A. Fritz and colleagues obtained nasal swabs from 1,300 patients from 11 practices in the St. Louis area. The prevalence of MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, varied from 0 percent to 9 percent (the average was 2.6 percent), depending on the practice.

The estimated prevalence of MRSA among children in the two-county St. Louis area was 2.4 percent, Fritz and colleagues report in the journal Pediatrics.

They found that 28 percent of the MRSA isolates were types often seen in healthcare settings and 66 percent were the types often seen in the community.

A significantly greater number of children found to have “community-acquired” MRSA were black and were enrolled in Medicaid, in comparison with children carrying healthcare-associated MRSA strains, the investigators report.

Fritz and colleagues say they are currently monitoring children identified as being exposed to MRSA and noting their progress to infection.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, June 2008.