Health Alarm: MRSA Associated with Increase Incidence in Gay Communities, Gay Sexual Behavior

The drug-resistant and potentially deadly strain of bacteria, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), is being transmitted increasingly and alarmingly among gay men during sex, researchers released Monday, January 14, 2008 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The trend is reported San Francisco, Boston, New York and Los Angeles.

Sexually active gay men in San Francisco are 13 times more likely to be infected than their heterosexual neighbors, researchers reported. About one in 588 people residing in San Francisco’s Castro district, which is a neighborhood with the highest number of gay residents in the United States [MAP/SAT].

MRSA killed about 19,000 Americans in 2005, but most deaths occurred in hospital infections. Once MRSA reaches the general population, it will be truly hard to stop. Binh Diep, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who led the MRSA study exclaimed: “That’s why we’re trying to spread the message of prevention.” Incidence of MRSA is rising along with a resurgence of syphilis, rectal gonorrhea, and new HIV infections partly because of changes in beliefs about the lesser severity of HIV/AIDS and its management with new treatments; and an increase in risky behaviors, such as illegal drug use and sexual behavior that causes skin abrasions.The likelihood of contracting each of these diseases increases with the number of sexual partners that a person has.

The best way to avoid MRSA infection, besides abstinence and reducing the number of sexual partners, is by washing the hands or genitals with soap and water, especially immediately after a sexual encounter.

According to biochemical analyses, MRSA is spreading among the gay communities of San Francisco and Boston. Researchers think that MRSA is spreading through sexual activity.

About 30 percent of all people carry ordinary staph chronically. MRSA can be communicated by touching other people or by contacting deposits of the MRSA bacteria on surfaces or objects (fomites). Most people who carry MRSA, have it in their noses, but community-based MRSA also can live in and near the anus, and is contagious between sexual partners.

The bacteria can cause deep-tissue infections if MRSA enters the body through a wound in the skin. MRSA can cause life-threatening and disfiguring infections and can often only be treated with expensive, intravenous antibiotics.

See also …
MRSA Facts and Fiction: What Does MRSA Look Like?
Where is the Castro District of San Francisco?