A conversation with Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA

May 12, 2010


Despite the many successes of antibiotics, researchers have known since the advent of penicillin in the 1940s that bacteria and humankind would always be locked in an arms race. Nowhere is this more clear today than in the story of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the deadly drug-resistant strain of bacteria that causes infections such as blood poisoning and pneumonia.

Maryn McKenna's Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSAMRSA is one of a group of drug resistant bacteria that are a major problems in hospitals around the world, and the subject of Maryn McKenna’s Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA. McKenna is an award-winning science and medical writer and author of Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.

A fatal strain of bacteria that medicines are powerless to fight running amok at hospitals sounds bad enough. But as McKenna notes, MRSA is no longer just a problem for hospitals. In the 1990s, doctors realized they were seeing a strain of MRSA among patients who had never been hospitalized. That strain, which in some cases was even more deadly than the hospital strain, has now combined with the hospital strain to produce an even more dangerous strain.

Meanwhile, MRSA had been incubating in farm animals, where many experts say overuse of antibiotics has sped up natural selection among bacteria, giving preference to drug resistant strains.

What can be done? Join us at noon Eastern Thursday for a conversation between McKenna and Reuters Health executive editor Ivan Oransky. We’ll look at the current status of the epidemic, what drug companies are — and aren’t — doing to fight it, and what you can do to protect yourself. You’ll have a chance to ask questions.

From the U.S., call 1-866-800-8648. Outside of the U.S., call 1-617-614-2702. The passcode is 42612274.

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