How should we handle this case?
A little south of Cape Canaveral on Florida’s Atlantic coast, 16-year-old Noah Meyers remains confined in his isolation room at the local Merritt Island hospital. One week ago Noah contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). His father, Bill Meyers, a former paramedic, believes it was from Noah’s football equipment: “All I know is that the marks that are on my son’s head, scalp, face, chin and neck. They are everywhere that the football helmet hit him. We can’t even give him a hug. He’s scared,” said Bill. “If people don’t realize how serious MRSA is, they need to.
What Bill Meyers wants for his son is what all families of the more than 80,000 MRSA-sufferers (in the U.S. alone) want: “I just want to make sure Noah is cured and is better, and I want to make sure that nobody else gets this.”
But there’s a catch: Almost 20% of people with MRSA skin infection will remain persistently colonized, according to new research conducted by Valerie Cluzet, PhD, from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Of the 243 patients Cluzet’s study followed, 48 (19.8%) remained persistently colonized. Furthermore, patients with persistent colonization tended to be older than patients who achieved clearance and were more likely to have a household member with MRSA colonization.
The treatment implication is both clear and novel: “These results give us an idea of who is going to be persistently colonized with MRSA, and will help us better target that population,” said Dr. Cluzet. “We may have to advise not only the patients but also the people they are living with to … get rid of the [MRSA] colonization.”
Bill Meyers believes his son’s MRSA didn’t come from the family, it came from the school’s football equipment. On the other hand, the school district isn’t so sure, saying that the helmets were just reconditioned and sanitized, were not shared between players, and they are looking into it.
Remember, the chief finding of the study isn’t that the MRSA necessarily came from a household member. It’s that once MRSA attaches itself to you, there’s a 1 in 5 chance it will remain on your body – and thus available to be given to others – even after you’re “cured” and sent home from the hospital.
So getting back to what Bill Meyers so reasonably wants – for Noah to be cured and for no one else to have to go through what his son did – and given the findings of Dr. Cluzet’s study, what should we do in this case?
Order follow-up MRSA decontamination procedures for Noah – and if so, for how long? Years? And what about the rest of the people in the household?
If this were your family, what would you want?