Thursday, January 28, 2010

Small Steps and Giant Leaps in the battle against MRSA

Although they have been around since the '60s, MRSA, and in general Hospital Acquired Infections have taken on a new urgency in the medical research spectrum (if you want more basic information, I am linking my older posts below). This should not be very surprising, since you would want to leave the Hospital healthy, not trading in one bug for another to be re-gifted to anyone who comes in contact with you.

Getting to the roots

For the longest time, it was assumed that MRSA was a cause for worry to folks that visited Hospitals and the effects on the larger society were not known. However, Hospital/Healthcare Acquired Infections have found their way into communities" and are now called "Community MRSA" and other names. It has been noted that these drug-resistant strains are adding, and not taking away from the hospital strains. All this has resulted in a general sense of urgency to try and understand the disease much better.

With modern biological tools such as very high-throughput gene sequencing, getting to the pathological history of microorganisms has become more detailed, if not easy or expensive. This is exactly what a team of international scientists at Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute are purported to have done. They took 63 strains of MRSA from across the world, ranging a timespan of twenty years from 1983 to 2003 and used DNA to try and understand the spread and maturation of the bacteria.

The results can only be termed ground-breaking at the least. The study was able to make it's unique findings because earlier genetic study techniques, were unable to pick through the minute changes and differences in strains. Without identifying these minute changes, such research and conclusions were previously not feasible.

1. The disease, as predicted, started in Europe and spread through South America and Asia. Where North America fits in is not clear yet (I haven't read the Science paper yet), but the very origin of the disease appears to be in Europe, not so unusually, coinciding with the time when antibiotics first saw heavy use, in the 1960s.

2. The rate of mutation in the bacteria appears to be about six weeks.

3. MRSA appears to have been created out of patients or their visitors bringing non-resistant bacteria to the hospitals rather than via transfer from patient to patient. This is a key finding, and it still may need verification, yet, it represents a large opportunity spectrum to fend off the origin and spread of the disease. We will revisit this later.


There are unique opportunities here, from a biotechnology perspective:

1. This study, with 62 samples was merely proof of concept, a starting point for very high-throughput genetic sequencing. There is a lot more work to be done to identify the origin, spread and other aspects of MRSA. A smart company could develop set of protocols and develop niche leadership, in quickly identifying and laying out the modes by which MRSA and other Hospital Acquired Infections spread. Such data would be invaluable for government and private healthcare organizations in the fight to fend off the HAI from affecting large portions of the public.

2. There appear to be lots of opportunities for bioengineering solutions, or medical device solutions that can help at prevention. Device solutions could either be consumer based, providing solutions for public places where MRSA can be found, or they can be based in the hospital setting where they can provide much needed protection against increasing rates of infection.

More on the MRSA coming soon...

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Jason Monroe said...

This reminds me of a post I wrote titled "Going to a hospital to get killed could be more accurate than expected."
In the post I mention that ten years ago, a national panel of health care experts released a landmark report on medical errors in the American health care system. Published by the Institute of Medicine, “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System” estimated that as many as 98,000 people died in hospitals each year as a result of preventable mistakes. Being hospitalized, it turned out, was far riskier than riding a jumbo jet.

On a personal note, I am interested in exchanging links with you from my medical blog ( over to your medicaal. Let me know how you want to be linked and I can get you listed in a few days.

On a business note, I know the owner over at JRS Medical and was wondering if they could get listed in this blog under a category like Medical Resources or something like that for a fee? I’m sure they would be open to a blog post reviewing their website or some of their products too? They can pay you by PayPal for your trouble.

Let me know if you’re interested in either. Look forward to hearing back from you.

(long time diabetic)
Let's practice love, acceptance, & forgiveness

NML said...

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Srihari Yamanoor said...


Thanks for looking up my website and also talking about your website.

You can let the folks at JRS know that as long as it is relevant, I can list them. I am not looking for financial resources from my blog. My sole aim through this blog is to spread information that is useful to a broad spectrum of the audience.