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LOS ANGELES—According to medical authorities, more than 1,000 Los Angeles County jail inmates have suffered painful skin infections caused by a bacterium resistant to commonly-used antibiotics. In January alone, more than 100 infections were reported.
A new form of Staphylococcus aureus (staph), causing fast-growing, grotesque boils, deep-skin abscesses, and widespread inflammation, appears to be spreading through skin-to-skin contact, including sex. This new strain is resistant to commonly-used antibiotics, such as methicillin and penicillin. However, it does appear to respond to lesser-known oral and intravenous antibiotics.
Staphylococcus aureus lives on the skin’s surface, usually existing harmlessly in the nose, armpits and groin. Typically, infections start in cuts or other openings, but the infections reported in L.A. County have been found in unbroken skin.
Since last summer, similar outbreaks of the strain have been found elsewhere in the L.A. area among gay men, members of sports teams and newborns in hospital nurseries. Large, painful infections have begun turning up among dozens of gay men, many of them H.I.V. patients, in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and are increasing in frequency.
Drug-resistant staph infections (which can spread from skin-to-skin contact, or indirectly through shared hospital equipment) were once considered problems limited to nursing homes and hospitals. Medical professionals worry that this strain could spread outside its traditional setting. A growing number of reports of comparable ailments have come from people who are neither gay nor in prison.
No deaths have resulted thus far, but the infection can be fatal if it spreads to the blood, if antibiotics fail, or if goes untreated.
Source: The Associated Press