MRSA: A Day at the Beach?

beach_closedA few months ago, I wrote a post about the spread of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, an antibiotic resistant pathogen.  The probable result of over use of penicillin in humans and in factory farm animals, this devastating illness was rarely contracted outside of hospitals.  But alarming and newly released studies show the presence of MRSA on US beaches – in the water and in the sand!  Perhaps a result of offshore dumping of medical waste, this is a disturbing development.  Especially as this blogger prepares to spend a week’s vacation at the beach!  More details on this story and some positive developments too, after the jump.

According to a new study, “Researchers tested 10 beaches in Washington along the West Coast and in Puget Sound from February to September 2008. Staph bacteria were found at nine of them, including five with MRSA. The strains resembled the highly resistant ones usually seen in hospitals, rather than the milder strains acquired in community settings.”  Further, scientists don’t believe that the contamination is restricted to these West Coast beaches.  This belief is supported by the results of a University of Miami study which found MRSA in four out of ten samples of sea water taken from South Florida beaches. 

Does this mean going to the beach will grow so hazardous that we may have to forgo enjoying this simple pleasure in the future?  Marilyn Roberts, a microbiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle said, “We don’t know the risk, ” for any individual going to a beach.  “But the fact that we found these organisms suggests that the level is much higher than we had thought.”

So this is dreadful news right?  Well, hold on because medical researchers are on the case and had some very heartening news to report this week too.

Evgeny Nudler, professor of biochemistry at New York University Langone Medical Center, published findings of h is research into ways to combat antibiotic resistant pathogens in Science magazine.   Apparently, according to Nudler’s findings, a small molecule composed of one atom of oxygen and one of nitrogen plays an important role in helping pathogens resist antibiotics.  Nitric oxide was initially considered to be a toxic gas and air pollutant until 1987 when a Nobel Prize winning study showed that it played a physiological role in mammals.  Nitric oxide has subsequently been found to participate in a range of bio-physical activities, including learning and memory, blood pressure regulation, penile erection, digestion and the fighting of infection and cancer.  Nudler’s new study supports the idea that many antibiotics cause the oxidative stress in bacteria, often resulting in their death, whereas nitric oxide counters this effect. This work suggests scientists could use a nitric oxide-synthase to make antibiotic resistant bacteria more sensitive to available drugs.

Now if they could just hurry up.  I am going to the beach this Saturday!

9 Responses to “MRSA: A Day at the Beach?”

  1. Claire Leland

    I was horrified to hear that our beaches have made us vulnerble to this possible pandemic! Having lived most of my life on the water front of Massachusetts; ( fifteen minutes from the coast of Martha’s Vinyard) I have always thought of our shores as a refuge of life sustaining elements. I had been part of the masses in Rhode Island and Massachusetts involved in fighting against pollution in our waters. Nantucket and Block Island had been cleaned up through our efforts. Now we find disease from medical waste is growing on our beaches. How repulsive! I’d like to find out just who are the responsible parties for this dangerous and criminal act. They deserve to be punished largely and publicly for their actions. For my part, I feel this travesty never should have happened. I’d also like to know just why it is still being tolerated. Apparently, it is. I wish our scientists, every blessing to reverse this ugly potential from our shores. Think about it. In this supposedly enlightened era in our society, greed is yet trying to kill us.

  2. Dottie Bowman

    years ago medical waste was incinerated before it left the campus of the hospital. With todays technology I think we may want to rethink this “out-dated” mode of keeping Americans safe.
    I was infected with MRSA last November and it was a horrible experience. There is only 1 I would wish this one, my worst enemy.LOL

  3. Roslyn Roe

    When I young (4) and my sister and I were at the beach (Sanford lake, Sanford, Michigan) I picked up a hand full of sand from the waters edge and through it at my sisters face. She got sand in her mouth and eyes. She then got Hepatitis. It was found that the water was contaminated. Back then they didn’t have the testing and warnings they have today.

  4. Stephanie Reyes

    It is hard to believe that our beaches are contaminated possibly by medical waste dumping. Our society is very set on saving the earth and finding many ways to conserve, you would think that this kind of contamination could be more easily prevented. I then look at the idea that there are always diseases adn bacteria lurking in the places we least expect it, therefore I would go to the beach but be cautious.

  5. Nancy Smitley

    It is just hard to believe what you can get from the beach today. Not like when we were kids. We didn’t have to worry. Speaking of worrying what was sun screen. Boy oh boy back in the good old days. Or were they hmmm.

    • I agree with stephanie that we us a part of society we have the responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of our beaches. We have the responsibility to save the beaches because “We” are part of the earth. What whatever we did to earth it will return to us. If we throw waste materials the water will be contaminated and not safe for the public. In every Chemical and any other component that we throw to the river, it will be our risk too.

  6. It is a scary thought knowing our beaches arn’t safe. I remember being a child and loving the beach. I found 5 public beaches along the coast of Washington closed for the first time with dangerous staph bacteria. Out of 10 beaches tested in Washington 9 of them they found staph bacteria, and 5 MRSA .The scientists are saying people should not avoid beaches, but should be sure to shower after leaving the water or digging in the sand to reduce the risks of contracting MRSA or other bacterial infections. Also, open cuts or scrapes should be covered before playing in sand or swimming in water. I live in Michigan and see that Lake Michigan beaches are often closed due to high fecal bacteria levels.

  7. President Obama promised $100 million and the full resources of the U.S. government for what he said would be one of the largest relief efforts in recent history. U.S. officials said 30 countries had either sent aid or promised to do so. Rescue teams from eight countries were on the ground.

    • Jeff Bowen

      This was a very informative piece. It is rather scary to think about as much as I enjoy the ocean. It is so sad that we have allowed a lot of these things to happen because of our own human negligence. It seems that every year the problems stemming from pollution are mounting greater.

      The close of the article was very promising and hopefully the discovery of the benefits of nitrous oxide will help defend us against the eventual downfall of antibiotics as we know them. In the mean time I feel we all should become more accountable as to how we handle pollution on every level. There should be severe penalties for those who grossly mismanage waste.

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