News 12 at 11 o'clock, October 18, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Researchers say MRSA could kill more people than the AIDS virus.
A 17-year-old Virginia high school football player died due to MRSA. It's a bacterial infection that's spread through person-to-person contact.
The bacteria lives on the skin of many people, but if it gets into the blood stream, it can be deadly.
"This is a new bug that is in the general public population and can be acquired by anyone," says Dr. Jim Wilde who's been studying the invasive bacteria.
Wilde says anyone can get it, no matter what their age, gender or medical history. MRSA has been around for forty years, but over time it's mutated into a more dangerous form.
"The new MRSA strain has acquired a gene that allows it to burrow under the skin and cause a pocket of pus, which is what an abscess, to form," says Dr. Wilde.
And if the infection spreads into the blood stream it can be deadly.
"More and more we're seeing these infections go from being localized to an abscess of a skin infection to being invasive infections that's causing blood stream infection, meningitis, pneumonia, bone infection," says Wilde, "And those systematic infections are much, much more dangerous than skin infections."
Researchers estimate about 19,000 people will die this year from MRSA infections. They say the key to protecting yourself is washing your hands frequently and not sharing personal items like clothes, uniforms, towels and razors.