This find follows on the heels of a similar discovery of drug-resistant staph in Japan earlier this year. Both strains showed an intermediate level of resistance to vancomycin, one step away from immunity to the antibiotic long considered to be the last line of defense in the medical arsenal.
Many strains of staph bacteria inhabit the planet. They are the collective cause of 13 percent of hospital infections in the United States, some two million cases each year leading to 60,000 to 80,000 deaths annually. The bacteria spread on exposed surfaces such as clothing, equipment, walls and floors, and thus can be passed to patients. To deal with the problem, many hospitals strictly isolate their weakest patients and carefully regulate use of their most powerful antibiotics lest additional strains of staph mutate and develop resistance to the drugs.
Although doctors successfully treated the cases in Michigan and Japan with other antibiotics, concern is growing in the medical community over the lack of alternative drugs to treat such infections, considering that it often takes years to successfully develop and test new antibiotics.
Scientists expected such a staph strain to eventually appear in the United States. "The timer is going off," commented William Jarvis, medical epidemiologist with the CDC. "We were concerned it would emerge here, it has emerged here, and we are concerned we're going to see it popping up in more places." (Source: The Associated Press.)