|In the late 1990s, four children in the upper Midwest suddenly and unexpectedly died. Their cases sent a chill through the ranks of infectious disease specialists – an antibiotic-resistant strain of "staph" bacteria had killed all four. The culprit was methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA.
MRSA had been around since the 1960s, with climbing numbers of infections through the 1980s and 90s, but it was a germ essentially confined to the hospital or health care setting.
"You didn't get MRSA if you were at home; you got it if you were in the hospital frequently, having surgery, had a dialysis catheter, or were always on antibiotics," says C. Buddy Creech, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.
"These children who died in Minnesota and North Dakota had none of the risk factors for MRSA. They were healthy kids; they'd never really been in the hospital; they'd never really been sick at all. And they had a very fulminant course of staph infection."
"From their cases came the fear – has hospital-acquired MRSA gotten loose? Do we have a feral isolate running around in our communities?" continued..
WRITTEN BY LEIGH MACMILLAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN DIXON