‘Superbug’ breast infections controllable in nursing mothers

September 1st, 2008 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, Sep 1 (IANS) ‘Superbug’ induced breast infections among nursing mothers can be conrolled even with existing treatment, according to new research.’Superbugs’ are microbes that become highly resistant to drugs. For example, Staphylococcus aureus that becomes resistant to methicillin, administered in case of breast infections.

The study focused on hospitalised women with mastitis. It showed that methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA was much more likely to be found in those who had both mastitis (an inflammation of the milk glands) and abscesses (pockets of infection).

“The take-home message is that a patient with mastitis does not necessarily need an antibiotic against MRSA,” said George Wendel of University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Centre and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and senior author of the study.

“She will improve with a less specific antibiotic as long as she also empties her breasts, either through feeding or pumping, and if there’s an abscess, gets it treated.”

The study also showed that if a nursing mother has an abscess, she does not immediately need antibiotics against MRSA, but can be switched to them if tests reveal she has MRSA.

The study was designed to determine which antibiotic treatment is best for severe cases of mastitis, which can be caused by clogged milk ducts with or without infection, and breast abscesses, which are caused by bacterial infections, generally by aureus. There are many strains of staph, one of which is MRSA.

Treating mastitis or breast abscesses immediately with powerful drugs that fight MRSA carries a risk of creating even more antibiotic-resistant strains of staph, Wendel said.

“The physician can take the time to test the patient to determine what kind of bacteria she has,” Wendel said. “We found that you’re not going to put the patient at a disadvantage if you start her on antibiotics while you wait for culture results, then switch her to more powerful medication if she has MRSA.”

The study involved 1,36,459 women who gave birth at Parkland Memorial Hospital between 1997 and 2005. Of those, 127 were hospitalised with mastitis, which tends to strike younger women having their first child.

The researchers found that about 59 percent of the women with both mastitis and abscesses had MRSA, while only 2 percent of women with mastitis alone had MRSA.

Because the study tracked women who had been hospitalised, there is no way to know whether this proportion is the same in women treated for mastitis on an outpatient basis, Wendel said.

MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics, but the researchers found that even in cases when the exact cause of the mastitis or abscess had not yet been determined, and the women initially received antibiotics that don’t affect MRSA, all eventually recovered completely.

During the study, when tests showed that a woman had MRSA, she was switched to vancomycin, an antibiotic effective against it.

The study will appear in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

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