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This week in Science, we learn that there has been pig to human transmission of a methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). While the pig MRSA hasn't been shown to be transmitted human-to-human yet, S. aureus is adept at horizontal gene transfers that can give it new capabilities.

From Pigs to People: The Emergence of a New Superbug


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 30th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
that does not sound at all like a Good Thing
I don't understand why or how humans lucked out of the past several threats like SARS and swine flu and such. I was concerned the threat last winter seemed to demonstrate that the world lacks the capacity to quickly develop, manufacture, and distribute vaccines. If pig MRSA were to develop human-to-human transmission, would it be possible to develop a vaccine and how long would it take?

A related thought: has dodging the past several bullets thru luck rather than skill significantly hindered efforts to fight such threats? I'm wondering, I guess, if there is any research on when the public is more likely to decide, "Well, SARS didn't kill me and swine flu didn't kill me, so why should I get a shot for pig MRSA?"
Aug. 31st, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
Re: that does not sound at all like a Good Thing
I think the scientific community generally believes that the response to 2009-10 H1N1 was pretty effective--that it could have been a lot worse. I don't know if that's empty horn-tooting or not. I'm sure you're right that luck had a lot to do with it.

Making a vaccine is super hard, no doubt about it. Luckily MRSA is a bacterium, so it can be treated with antibiotics, though only pretty specific ones. There are certain antibiotics that are sort of held in reserve for the antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Usually they bust out vancomycin for MRSA, I think. I don't know how hard that is to manufacture, but certainly less difficult than a vaccine.

It's true we're overdue for a really nasty pandemic. Something a la 1918 influenza. I don't know if people will consider the H1N1 response as a case of scientists crying wolf, or a disaster averted. Their opinions on that question will likely dictate how they feel about the next bug to come along.
Oct. 29th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
Re: that does not sound at all like a Good Thing
The top two sharply increasing preventable causes of death are obesity and floods. Is the former a viral epidemic? Or is it just a symptom of social problems brought about by the psychological conditions of scarcity. Food and housing are at different levels of Maslov's hierarchy of needs, but scarcity or insecurity in either both cause exaggerated hunger (well I guess it's not technically exaggerated in the case of food insecurity.)
Aug. 31st, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
Re: Great, now we have to worry about pig MRSA.

(Lil') Sarah had MRSA about a month ago on the back of her leg. We thought it was a bug bite at first, but Ali took her to urgent care and they ended up lancing it.

The only (uncooked) pig we have in our house is a Webkinz.


Aug. 31st, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
Re: Great, now we have to worry about pig MRSA.
Yes, the pig MRSA is still way less of a problem than the normal person kind. :-) Glad to hear Sarah's brush with it wasn't too terrible!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )