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General Health : Infectious Disease Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


Gay men more likely to have MRSA
By Sue Mueller
Jan 15, 2008 - 6:07:33 PM

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A high percentage of gay men are found infected with a drug resistant bacterium, suggesting that the so-called superbug is being transmitted among gay men during sex, according to a new study released Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The bacterium of concern is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, which has been known to have spread from hospitals to communities such as in San Francisco, Boston, New York and Los Angeles, Reuters reported.

The study led by Binh Diep at the University of California in San Francisco and colleagues found sexually active gay men in the city are 13 times more likely to harbor the drug resistant strain than their heterosexual neighbors.

"Once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable," said Binh Diep was quoted by Reuters as saying. "That's why we're trying to spread the message of prevention."

The researchers said the highly lethal bacterium is spreading among the gay communities in San Francisco and Boston and believed that the spread was made possible through sexual contact between men.

This superbug is known to cause life-threatening and disfiguring infections that ordinary antibiotics can not treat and only some new, more potent yet more expensive antibiotics may treat the infections.

MRSA killed about 19,000 people in the United States in 2005, Reuters reported, citing a report published in October in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Early studies have shown that about 15 to 20 percent of cases of MRSA or superbug infections, which used to be seen in hospitals, actually occur out of hospitals or in communities.

One third of the U.S. population carry ordinary staph chronically often in their noses, but community-based MRSA also live in and around the anus and are passed through heterosexual contact.

Diep said the likelihood for a gay man to contract MRSA is determined by the number of sexual partners that he has had, meaning that to reduce the risk, gay men should reduce the number of their sexual partners.

A scientist affiliated with foodconsumer.org who is not part of the team suggested that although multiple homosexual partners increase the odds of MRSA transmission, one other possible reason gay men are found to be much more likely to carry the disease is because these men are more likely to have compromised immune systems, which make their hosts often incapable of fighting superbug infections.

A government report published on June 24, 2005 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed that one quarter of gay men who have had sex with men were infected with HIV, which reduces the immunity of the hosts.

The message of the study is that gay men are at higher risk of acquiring MRSA infections probably because of the fact that these men are less likely to defend themselves against such infections.





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