Drug-Resistant Bacterial Strain Affecting Chicago’s Minority, Poor Communities, Study Says
A "dangerous" drug-resistant strain of bacteria -- called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA -- is "spreading rapidly" in the Chicago urban community, and blacks, the recently incarcerated and residents of a particular public housing community are among those at greatest risk of becoming infected, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reports.
For the study, Bala Hota, lead author and assistant professor of infectious diseases at Rush University Medical Center, and colleagues examined the number of MRSA infections reported at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital's emergency department in Cook County, Ill., and medical clinics in the county between 2000 and 2005. Researchers identified 2,346 patients with staph infections on the skin, soft tissue, joints or bones who likely contracted the infection in the community. Forty-one percent had MRSA. They found that community-associated MRSA infections increased from 24 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 164.2 cases per 100,000 in 2005.
Individuals with the greatest risk of a MRSA infection were blacks, those who had been in jail within the past 12 months and those who lived in public housing on the Near West Side, according to the study. Researchers said the county jail is "an overcrowded, unsanitary environment" that enables the infection to be transmitted easily, the Tribune reports. In addition, former inmates are more likely to forgo medical care when they return to their communities, which are likely poor or public housing.
The Chicago Department of Health and Human Services is developing an electronic reporting system to track individuals with MRSA, while other health officials are working in awareness campaigns to address the problem. "Clearly, there's more we can do," Michael Vernon, director of communicable disease control for the Cook County Department of Health, said, adding, "What I'd like to see is jail officials, public health officials and researchers get together and come up with a plan to institute surveillance and control measures" (Graham, Chicago Tribune, 5/29).
An abstract of the study is available online.