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Officials: Staph 'Superbug' Spreading in Gay Community

Researchers today report that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which has up till now been confined mainly to hospitals, according to Reuters, is now being transmitted sexually by gay men in large urban areas — notably San Francisco, Boston, L.A., and New York.

MrsaReuters reports: "Sexually active gay men in San Francisco are 13 times more likely to be infected than their heterosexual neighbors, the researchers reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 'Once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable,' said Binh Diep, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who led the study. 'That's why we're trying to spread the message of prevention.'...This superbug can cause life-threatening and disfiguring infections and can often only be treated with expensive, intravenous antibiotics."

MRSA can be passed by human contact or by bacteria left on surfaces.

The SF Chronicle published a graphic today showing cases per 100,000 persons in each of its zip code areas, along with the percentage of male same-sex couples living in those areas.


They report: "Although researchers have stopped short of declaring this form of staph a sexually transmitted disease, the infections are found where skin-to-skin contact occurs during sexual activity. Most of the infections are limited to the skin surface, but the bacteria can invade deeper tissues or disseminate through the bloodstream. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, various forms of MRSA are causing 95,000 of these more costly and potentially life-threatening infections annually in the United States and 19,000 deaths. Until last year, staph infections had never been linked to sexual activity."

The best defense against preventing the spread of the bacteria is soap and water. Said Dr. Chip Chambers, director of infectious diseases at San Francisco General: "Taking a shower after sexual contact may minimize contamination. Ordinary soap will do. It dilutes the concentration of bacteria. You don't need antibacterial soap."

Drug-resistant staph found to be passed in gay sex [reuters]
San Francisco's gay community hit by new form of staph infection [sf chronicle]

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  1. So the gays gave AIDS to the world and now superbug staph infection...perhaps it is time to look in the mirror and see the rampant drug fueled promiscuity which is certainly to blame. Straight guys play in their early twenties but by their late 20s or early 30s they settle down, have children and change their priorities for the most part. Gays on the other hand live in some sort of a perpetual party mode.

    Posted by: ReasonBased | Jan 14, 2008 6:55:07 PM

  2. So the gays gave AIDS to the world and now superbug staph infection...perhaps it is time to look in the mirror and see the rampant drug fueled promiscuity which is certainly to blame. Straight guys play in their early twenties but by their late 20s or early 30s they settle down, have children and change their priorities for the most part. Gays on the other hand live in some sort of a perpetual party mode.

    Posted by: ReasonBased | Jan 14, 2008 6:57:40 PM

  3. It's the internet...The internet and the endless options for meeting other men online for anonymous sexual enocunters is what has the fueled the rise in diseases. This scares me, and it should scare everyone, I think....

    Posted by: David | Jan 14, 2008 7:01:38 PM

  4. I had an MRSA, which I did not get from sex. A major source of this, and a possible reason the gay community is so highly affected is the spread of the germs by handling the same equipment in a gym. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly when working out and after, nd don't itch, scratch, rub your eyes/nose/mouth while at the gym.

    Posted by: Dan B | Jan 14, 2008 7:02:44 PM

  5. I have to admit that I thought something similar. I don't know about the whole comparison to the dominant heterosexual culture where everything seems fine and dandy in your comparison, but I do think that the gays need to choose to become more than a pitre dish.

    Posted by: Pierre | Jan 14, 2008 7:07:18 PM

  6. "Gays gave AIDS to the world" ... ???

    The folks in Africa would beg to differ, sweetheart (it predominantly effects the heterosexual population there). Not to mention all the straight drug users in Europe/America who are doing their part to perpetuate the disease. It's very simple, my ever-so-reasonable-yet-impossibly-dense friend: immature, irresponsible actions NOT sexuality are responsible for the continued spread of this disease.

    Repeat that three time in your head before penning some asinine response.

    Reasonbased, huh? Let me guess ... you totally support Ron Paul for prez and read Ayn Rand religiously, right?

    Posted by: Dan | Jan 14, 2008 7:15:49 PM

  7. I have been sick for seven weeks with something that is mimicking this. Tests have not been conclusive about what I have yet. Mine started out as a very bad cold, then went to pneumonia, and now has been all over my body. I have not had a voice in four weeks.

    To say that this is sexually contracted would not be the case in my situation, as I have been in a five-year monogamous relationship. It has been horrendous. I've had three courses of antibiotics and two different steroids and still no relief. And now my partner is starting to show symptoms.

    Please be careful friends.

    Posted by: Gary | Jan 14, 2008 7:17:23 PM

  8. Someone wrote: Gays on the other hand live in some sort of a perpetual party mode.....Well SOME gays do. Most don't believe it or not. I certainly don't. And what I hear and read about Syph, Staph, Hepatitis, well I will restrict me to the occasional half virgin ;-) straying str8 dude in his late teens, no kissing, and I will top only, with 2 condoms. Anyway sex is boring and I've read all the books. Let's make more money!

    Posted by: DREDD | Jan 14, 2008 7:19:34 PM

  9. I work in a hospital and what Dan says is 100% true. Just being in the gym makes you more at risk of catching MRSA. It's not about sex it's about just daily contact with someone MRSA positive. Just remember to wash with soap and water... :)

    Posted by: Salbashian | Jan 14, 2008 7:31:49 PM

  10. Staphylococcus Areus...whether methicillin resistant or spread by skin to skin contact or by touching a surface on which the bacteria lives. The fact that some forms are resistant to methicillin (the first line treatment) while others require newer, more expensive antibiotics does not change the way in which it is transmitted. This means that you can contract it by shaking hands with someone who has it or by picking up weights at the gym that were just used by someone with a staph infection or, perhaps, by having sex with someone who has it. Therefore, it isn't surprising that MRSA (which is fairly contagious) would spread within a population such a the gay community, the Amish community, a college campus, an army barracks, etc...while people outside that community remain uninfected. That doesn't, however, mean that MRSA in the gay community is an STD that is being spread by promiscuous gay men.

    I've had MRSA twice (about 5 years ago and then again about 4 years ago). The first infection was on my neck...not exactly a site you would associate with an STD...and the most sexual activity I had for weeks prior to the appearance of my staph infection was an evening of making out with a cute guy (and yes, our clothes stayed on all evening) I find it fairly outrageous that San Francisco doctors are playing this up as being transmitted by gay men who are sexually active (which we all know is a euphemism for promiscuous).

    The second time I had MRSA it was on my index finger during a period in which I was whoring around...however, given my activities at the time, I would think the infection would have been in my throat or cock...not on my finger.

    And I have one word for the doctor who said "Once it spreads into the general population, it will be truly unstoppable": Vancomycin.

    I'm not buying the MRSA-as-STD argument. Sorry.

    Posted by: peterparker | Jan 14, 2008 7:44:40 PM

  11. REASONBASED is an anagram for One Bared Ass. Your post is amazingly uninformed, biased, some might say self-loathing and well...I say just plain embarrassing... like well, One Bared Ass.

    My gift to the world isn't the aids virus I've been carrying around with me for the last 22 years. No, my gift is the ability to accessorize that virus into my daily life with dignity, love and all the humor and panache necessary to get me from one day to the next. Oh yeah, and my one ass is never bared inappropriately & my cock never enteres one bared ass.

    Posted by: basis4insanity | Jan 14, 2008 7:48:23 PM

  12. Great. Like I needed another reason to avoid the gym.

    Posted by: Paul | Jan 14, 2008 8:04:09 PM

  13. The australians are having a wonderful and easy time curing the supposed untreatable staph with honey dressings.

    It is now standard ausie hospital procedure to use sterilized honey dressings to treat such with a huge success rate

    Go figure.


    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Jan 14, 2008 8:05:48 PM

  14. Yeah, it's the gym, not the rampant promiscuous drug-fueled fucking that's brought new HIV infections among young gay men to such a peak it's a major article in the OpEd of today's New York Times.

    WTF people? I find it sad that you're considered over-the-hill at 30 in the gay community, and that contempt has young people utterly ignoring the danger and horrors of severe lifelong infection and death that we ancient relics lived through. I'm 36.

    Escalating STDs of ALL kinds are thru the roof lately, this is the newest horror that straights will slam us with. Way to go, guys.

    WTF. Some "community".

    Posted by: arundel | Jan 14, 2008 8:07:24 PM

  15. REASONBASED, let's be fair. Straight men, who you idolize, start their sexual rampages shortly after puberty (with no closet issues) AND THEN CONTINUE through their twenties and sometimes early thirties and beyond.

    I think you left out the VERY significant part where they go through a normal, unoppressed, uncloseted, free period of sexual exploration and revelation while gay people are still, for the most part, playing it straight and getting no chance to explore and have revelations WITHIN THEIR TRUTH.

    Most gay men come out in their 20's and 30's. Many in their 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond. At THAT point THEIR exploration clock starts ticking where a straight person's started at 14-16. Some also feel that they have a lot of making up to do; especially those who come out late in life.

    Though I agree with you that many gay men could do with a little growing up and being responsible (ie drug abuse, unsafe sex and sex obsession) I totally disagree with your accusations, misinformation and comparison of apples with oranges.

    Posted by: Zeke | Jan 14, 2008 8:45:13 PM

  16. First of all, I'd like to read the study. That "sexually active gay men are 13 times more likely" to be infected is a compelling statistic. But what I would like to know how this was determined. Who comprised their sample? Did these participants contract the infection through sex? What else did these men have in common?

    If one looks at the graphic, it seems that there may be other neighborhood surfaces common to the sample besides skin. Consider Legionnaire's disease. What was common to those infected that proved most relevant (if memory serves) was contact with contaminated water. I think the observations about gym equipment are excellent ones, but I wonder what other surfaces one touches in one's neighborhood might be of interest. Doors to the grocer's? Neighborhood restaurants? Public transportation?

    I'm not giving the promiscuous and/or irresponsible in our community a "pass" - I'm just saying that there may be more to this than meets the eye reading such a short synopsis of a study. Certainly at this point, comments about "gifts" of disease from Gay men to the world are at best premature and at worst ignorant as fuck.

    Posted by: JT | Jan 14, 2008 8:51:02 PM

  17. I think it should be noted that MRSA is only a problem if you're immunosuppressed for some reason. About half of the population is immunosuppressed due to young or old age, medication, or disease.

    Posted by: oregon state student | Jan 14, 2008 9:03:04 PM

  18. To JT: It's not just people in the neighborhood, it's gay men in the neighborhood. And it's not just San Francisco, it's L.A., Boston, and New York. Who don't ride the Muni and shop at Safeway...That being said, I appreciate your skepticism.

    Posted by: Paul | Jan 14, 2008 9:39:01 PM

  19. When I glanced at this (sorry, didn't really read it) I thought they were talking about roaches or some kind of insects & I thought "ooh, gross", but then I thought, "wait, how can they be gay?"

    Is this worse than mono? I've caught that before from guys from when I was
    x-tra slutty and on heavy party mode...mono is awful. You can't party at ALL.

    Posted by: Jordan | Jan 14, 2008 10:19:18 PM

  20. I am so glad I am in a 17-year monogamous relationship.

    Posted by: jeff | Jan 14, 2008 11:38:33 PM

  21. I found this an incredibly homophobic Reuters article and I also found the scientists involved to be quite homophobic in the way they made their point. The journalists and scientists are trying to demonize gay sex, simple as that. My point is that it's not gay sex that causes it, it's promiscuity and lack of hygiene. Blame promiscuity and lack of hygiene - which applies to both homosexuals and heterosexual - and not the gender combination of the sex acti. These journalists and researchers would have the public believe that anal sex is evil and disease-ridden if it's between two men but not if it's between a man and woman.

    Posted by: brian | Jan 14, 2008 11:38:34 PM

  22. There is more anal sex in male-female combinations than there is in male-male combinations. Yet these scientists continue to demonize the male-male version rather than the male-female version. Someohow, itf it's a penis going into a man's behind, it's somewhat more conducive to disease than if it's a penis going into a woman's behind. Yeah, right.

    Posted by: matt | Jan 14, 2008 11:43:20 PM

  23. Well, I have an idea. Why don't we all go back and crawl under the puritanical rock where we came from? In case no one has noticed, one thing is for certain and that is death. Get used to it kiddies, evolution must continue its course no matter how hard we might want to stop it. We could not have stopped it all from happening, not even in a million years. Stop looking for the scape goat. It has never existed.

    Posted by: Tari | Jan 14, 2008 11:47:20 PM

  24. I just got another great idea. Why don't we all go and get us a 17-year monogamous relationship?

    Posted by: Tari | Jan 14, 2008 11:51:19 PM

  25. In the Reuters article, the good doctor says : "We think that it's spread through sexual activity," Diep said. They THINK, they didn't interview people, they assume. Since it spreads in a rather gay neighbourood, that must be through er - anal - sex. Of course. Yeah. And if he gets it, with his name, that will be from eating too much rice, no?

    Posted by: Shame and Prejudice | Jan 15, 2008 12:19:43 AM

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