Severe pimples reflect deadly bacteria

BOSTON: Many boils and pimples severe enough to send people to hospital emergency rooms are caused by a sometimes deadly bacteria that cannot be treated with conventional drugs, a study showed on Wednesday.

Doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that 59% of skin and soft tissue infections seen in 11 emergency rooms across the US were from the deadly superbug known as MRSA.

MRSA, or Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is a bacteria resistant to certain antibiotics. It occurs most frequently in patients with weakened immune systems in hospitals and nursing homes and can be spread by poor hygiene.

The new study, published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, shows just how common the MRSA strain has become in the general community.

"It appears now that everyone is at risk,"research team leader Gregory Moran said in a written statement. "So if you think you have a spider bite or other type of skin lesion that is not healing, you want to see your doctor to make sure i’'s not an infection like MRSA."

The researchers said the findings show that when infections become serious enough, doctors need to test to make sure they are not of the MRSA strain. Spread of the infection can be prevented by regular hand washing with soap and water. People also should not share personal items like towels and razors.

MRSA has emerged as growing problem in many countries, causing difficult-to-treat infections. In England and Wales, for example, the number of deaths linked to MRSA jumped 22% between 2003 and 2004.

Most pimples are caused by acne, which affects nearly 17 million people in the US and is usually created when the skin’s pores are clogged with oil and dead skin cells.