Two super bugs first detected in the U.S. have begun to cause serious
sickness and death in a handful of Colombian cities, including the
capital Bogota, according to research published Thursday in the New
England Journal of Medicine.
The study, a joint project by researchers at the University of Texas
Medical School at Houston and the Universidad El Bosque in Bogota,
found that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, and
vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis, VREF, have emerged in Colombia and researchers want to know how they got there.
The researchers say the this is the first time this particular MRSA
lineage has been documented in a country other than the United States.
They also say the VREF strain found is genetically related to one that
hit a Houston hospital in 1994.
The researchers say community-associated MRSA infections — which are
acquired by people who have neither been hospitalized or had a medical
procedure in the past year — surfaced in Colombia in 2005, one case in
each of Bogota and Villavicencio. Now there are 15 cases across the
country in four cities.
As for VREF, 50 cases have been identified since 2001 at seven hospitals in Colombia.
“We are tracking and recording these cases to find the link between
the U.S. and Colombia,” said Cesar Arias, assistant professor of
infectious diseases at the UT Medical School at Houston, in a news
“The goal is to find out why and how these organisms got there. With
this information, researchers hope to better understand the molecular
epidemiology of these super bugs to understand how they spread and how
to control them.”
He said the university plans to study the super bugs further with
Latin American institutions to learn more about the antibiotic
A variation of MRSA is considered the most important cause of severe skin and soft tissue infections in the U.S.
The researchers said all of the patients diagnosed with
community-associated MRSA infections in Colombia suffered severe skin
and soft tissue infections. Some patients lost tissue surrounding
bones, while others had bacteria in their bloodstreams or developed
meningitis. About 20 per cent of the patients died.
The MRSA infections were treated with antibiotics, although 40 per cent were said to be resistant to tetracycline.
Arias said that a variation of MRSA has also surfaced in a number of patients in Ecuador and Venezuela. (CBC News)