MRSA – pathogen, politics and penalties

Staphylococcus aureus It is eye-opening to search the internet for the term MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) these days. Instead of epidemiological treatises from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, or reports of decreasing surgical site infections attributed to the advent of active surveillance followed by decolonization and contact isolation procedures, one finds that the first items that are highlighted link to Michael Jackson’s nose infection following another of his minor rhinoplastic touch-ups; a web page devoted to the new best-seller wannabe, Maryn McKenna’s book Superbug, The Fatal Menace of MRSA; and recently World MRSA Day (October 2nd, in case your laboratory wishes to have an event) sponsored by the MRSA Survivors’ Network. Yes, MRSA has celebrity spokespersons, in the shape of actors Tanner Richie and Alicia Cole. How did this microbe, only a few years older than HIV, become so infamous? Actually, we have ourselves partly to blame…

MRSA: a case of pathogens, politics and penalties. Trends Microbiol. 23 Feb 2011
In the current era of public scientific ‘debate’ such as the scientific merit of climate change, it should come as no surprise that a bacterium would have its 15 minutes of political limelight. Furthermore, a few dedicated citizens can truly influence the lives of many by changing the law of the land. For microbiologists, who often complain that our contributions go unnoticed and that we have no political power, this story serves to prove otherwise.

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