The Methamphetamine and MRSA Connection

Is there a connection between meth labs and MRSA? I had never really given it any thought, until I received this letter from a landlord who wondered if there was a connection between them.

“I rented my trailer to woman and her daughter, 14, at the time, and a beautiful young girl, in high school, with some nice friends, truly.  Now, three years later, unhealthy and has msra infection.When they first began renting they were nice, but as time went on they started not letting me inspect and avoided my friends and neighbors. Long story short, I had them removed. It is 1:00 am, I saw someone skulking around my home, I immediately called 911, gave the operator all the info and she said, an officer will be sent to check.

I just spoke with the sheriff and let him look around and asked him if they would quaranteen my rental because, I had just read that’s what they do with former meth labs. He said, ” I didn’t see anything.” I’m guessing, convincing enough. The unbelievable mess of my rental, didn’t  seem to sway him. I am glad he came and inspected as the meth addicts will not be back. I hope.

When I first looked at this place, I was lost and didn’t know what to do, and my friend came out, a big burly man, he looked at it with me and gave me some directions as what to do first. I worked seven hours straight, removing anything I could sell at yard sale, and to look at the place, now, you wouldn’t know it, though. Does anyone know about mrsa infection combined with a meth lab?”

What is MRSA?

MRSA is a staph infection that is resistant to the effect of several commonly used antibiotics. To put it simply, it’s a “superbug”, that can be difficult for doctors to kill once it has settled in to your body.

(picture) MRSA lesions on the skin.  Untreated MRSA lesions can become infected.

MRSA infections

MRSA infections can infect and be transmitted by humans and animals. MRSA has been found in domesticated animals that include dogs, cats, and horses. Healthy people and animals are much less likely to become ill after exposure to MRSA. If a person or animal is not in good health,  however, the MRSA virus gains the advantage. Problems with the immune system or the skin or invasive surgeries can put both people and animals at a higher risk of being infected by MRSA, which typically makes its way in to the body by entering through their throats, nasal passages, or their skin.

As a “superbug”, MRSA is not only resistant to the effects of antibiotics, it can also survive without the benefit of a living host. According to a German study, MRSA can thrive and survive for several months on dry surfaces and lives the longest in areas with low humidity. If you’re ill or have problems with your skin – open cuts, sores – and you’re exposed to MRSA long enough for it to invade, your chances are greater for coming down with a MRSA infection.

What does methamphetamine have to do with MRSA?

A study conducted by the CDC and Georgia Health Departments, suggests that there is a strong connection between methamphetamine and the MRSA virus. You’ve probably seen the Faces of Meth, many of which show faces that look like they have bad acne problems? It’s not usually acne. It’s “meth bugs”.  Using meth can produce the feeling that bugs are crawling under the user’s skin, which makes them pick and scratch at their skin to the point of creating open sores, open sores that are an open invitation to a MRSA infection. According to Adam Colfax, assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, when a meth users goes to the hospital with a skin infection, doctors automatically treat them for MRSA.

Other conditions that put meth users at greater risk of contracting MRSA include:

  • Using antibiotics
  • Living in the same house with someone with a skin infection
  • Living in a crowded house
  • Having sex with someone with a MRSA infection

The CDC and Georgia Health Department study also showed that MRSA caused over two-thirds of all skin infections in the rural Georgia community that they studied, which placed it among the highest recorded rates of MRSA skin infections nationwide.

What does MRSA have to do with meth labs?

Based on what researchers know about MRSA, if a meth user or meth cook is infected with MRSA, they could leave traces of the MRSA virus on dry surfaces in a home, garage, shed, etc. Additionally, the MRSA virus could survive on surfaces in those structures for several months, especially in low humidity climates. Entering a home where meth has been used or made carries the potential of MRSA exposure – in addition to being exposed to toxic chemicals – based on what research has shown.

References:

Rosenthal, Marie. “Methamphetamine Use Increases Risk of Acquiring HIV, STDs and MRSA.” Infectious Disease News. Apr. 2006. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. <http://www.infectiousdiseasenews.com/view.aspx?rid=33501>.

Cohen AL, Shuler C, McAllister S, Fosheim GE, Brown MG, Abercrombie D, et al. Methamphetamine use and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus skin infections. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2007 Nov [date cited]. Available from http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/13/11/07-0148.htm

“Fomites and Infection Transmission.” Infection Control Today Magazine. 07 Nov. 2006. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. <http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/articles/2006/11/fomites-and-infection-transmission.aspx>.

 

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