Flesh-Eating Bacteria Linked To Over The Counter Antibiotic Cream

Flesh-Eating Bacteria and Antibiotic Cream

After getting a cut, many Americans will reach for a tube of antibiotic cream to ward off infection, but it could be linked to flesh-eating bacteria.

However, that widespread habit may be contributing to the rise of one of the most concerning strains of drug-resistant bacteria. Japanese researchers looked at 261 samples of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

It included 21 samples of the USA300 strain, a type of MRSA that has gained attention for its spread. It is a frequent presence in the community as well as the hospital, and its link to necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease.

They found that while other MRSA strains were somewhat susceptible to some combination of the antibiotics bacitracin and neomycin — which are typically found in over-the-counter creams and ointments — only the USA300 strains were resistant to both. The authors said this may mean that overexposure to those antibiotics is what led to USA300’s resistance.

“People should understand that triple antibiotic [ointment] is not almighty, and avoid preventive or excessive use of this ointment,” said study author Masahiro Suzuki, a bacteriologist at the Aichi Prefectural Institute of Public Health in Nagoya, Japan.

The origin of the USA300 strain has remained unknown, in part because, unlike other MRSA strains, it appears to have evolved outside of hospitals.

“Over the past decade or so, it’s really emerged as the leading cause of skin and soft-tissue infections in the community,” said Dr. Henry Blumberg, a professor of infectious disease at Emory University, who has studied USA300 at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.