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A dangerous germ that has been spreading around the country causes more life-threatening infections than public health authorities had thought and is killing more people in the United States each year than the AIDS virus, federal health officials reported yesterday.
n the new study, Fridkin and his colleagues analyzed data collected in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Tennessee, identifying 5,287 cases of invasive MRSA infection and 988 deaths in 2005.
The researchers calculated that MRSA was striking 31.8 out of every 100,000 Americans, which translates to 94,360 cases and 18,650 deaths nationwide. In comparison, complications from the AIDS virus killed about 12,500 Americans in 2005.
"This indicates these life-threatening MRSA infections are much more common than we had thought," Fridkin said.
In fact, the estimate makes MRSA much more common than flesh-eating strep infections, bacterial pneumonia and meningitis combined, Bancroft noted.
One version of the killer bug – called USA300 – is passed easily through skin contact and can lead to a flesh-eating form of pneumonia.
It is resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics and could cause widespread infection and large numbers of deaths if it spreads suddenly.
USA300 has already killed thousands of people in America and is the highest single cause of death there from infectious disease.
It can cause large boils on the skin and lead to fatal blood poisoning or a form of pneumonia that can eat away at lung tissue.