October 20, 2014
2 min read

The so-called ‘birth and life’ of MRSA

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Since the 1940s, the misuse and overuse of antibiotics have morphed the evolution of Staphyloccoccus aureus, causing microbes to become resistant to the drugs created to fight these infections.

S. aureus is derived from the Greek words staphyle meaning “bunch of grapes” and aureus, meaning a Roman golden coin — describing the appearance of S. aureus under the microscope. S. aureus became resistant to penicillin during the late 1940s and into the 1950s, which led to the development of methicillin in 1959. The “birth” of methicillin-resistant S. aureus occurred in 1961 when a British professor identified the first of these strains.    

  • 1850s: Florence Nightingale revolutionizes health care

During the Crimean War, the British nurse, Florence Nightingale, identified precautionary methods to prevent spread of infection in the hospital setting. Her methods included the assurance of clean hospital wards with strict attention to patient hygiene.      

  • 1882: The first discovery of S. aureus

In 1882, surgeon Alexander Ogston first discovered S. aureus at the University of Aberdeen.  

  • 1959: The development of methicillin

The first beta-lactamase-resistant penicillin, methicillin, was licensed in England. 

  • 1961: The first discovery of MRSA

According to data published in 1961 in the British Medical Journal, Professor Patricia Jevons observed the first culture of MRSA at Colindale Laboratories in London — 2 years after the introduction of methicillin.

  • 1968: The first case of MRSA in the U.S.

MRSA eventually spread across the world and the first U.S. case was recorded in 1968 at the Boston City Hospital. MRSA later became resistant to all beta-lactams — penicillin-like antibiotics that include penicillin, methicillin, amoxicillin and oxacillin.

  • 1968-1990s: MRSA becomes an endemic pathogen

MRSA became known as an endemic pathogen across hospitals, particularly in large urban university hospitals.

  • 1981: MRSA outbreak among injectable drug users 

Large outbreak of MRSA infections are reported among injectable drug users in Detroit.

  • 1998-2008: Hospital-acquired MRSA decreases while community-acquired infection increases  

While MRSA rates in the hospital setting decreased, the occurrence of community-acquired MRSA increased. During this time, those at highest risk for CA-MRSA included athletes, military recruits, incarcerated people, emergency room patients, people with HIV and men who have sex with men.

  • 2002: Experimental S. aureus vaccine fails  

An experimental vaccine that targeted the two most common surface antigens of S. aureus showed promise among dialysis patients in a clinical trial. However, the vaccine failed in a follow-up phase 3 trial. Other vaccines are currently in the early stages of development.

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