Local doctors co-author study on MRSA pneumonia

Study finds physicians may be overprescribing antibiotics

SAN ANTONIO – Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio said doctors in the Alamo City may be overprescribing antibiotics for patients diagnosed with pneumonia after they were exposed to an MRSA infection.

But after conducting a worldwide study, the researchers learned fewer people had MRSA infections than previously thought, which is why doctors may need to rethink their methods of treatment.

MRSA is a staph infection caused by a bacteria that's resistant to most antibiotics typically used to fight staph infections. But it can cause a big problem in pneumonia patients.

"MRSA sometimes causes a necrotizing disease, meaning it kills the bug and damages the tissue to a level that can cause holes or severe damage to the lungs," said Dr. Marco Restrepo, VA Hospital physician and UTHSC associate professor. "We have seen many patients in the University hospital, in the VA, who happen to have MRSA pneumonia."

Restrepo is a member of the Global Initiative for MRSA Pneumonia, also known as GLIMP, which conducted a study about MRSA pneumonia. The study tested over 3,100 pneumonia patients worldwide and found MRSA in only 3 percent of the patients. The highest concentration of MRSA infections were found in South and North America.

"If you are in one of those places, and you happen to have a lot of this bacteria, you need to select for which kind of patient you are going to end up using those antibiotics," Restrepo said.

He said that overprescribing antibiotics can lead to a drug-resistant bacteria.

"Use it when it is needed, but don't overuse it because then, we will kill those antibiotics that are helping us to take care of those very sick patients," Restrepo said.

He added that it's all about finding a balance. Restrepo said that he hopes the findings of the study will help guide doctors in understanding the MRSA prevalence in their community and which pneumonia patients have the highest risk of contracting MRSA.