RAMALLAH, June 18 (JMCC) - A joint Israeli-Palestinian medical team has found that a strain of bacteria resistant to antibiotics is spreading in the Gaza Strip, reports
The bacteria is a superbug of the type that has raised concern in recent years, particularly in hospital settings. This strain causes abscesses and is similar to a European strain, but is spreading in the general community outside of hospitals.
Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, a physician participating in the project and a researcher at the infectious disease unit at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, said: We found that the bacterium is transmitted very rapidly in Gaza. At first we thought it came from a European volunteer and spread because of the overcrowding, but genetic markers of the Gaza bacterium make us believe that it's a different strain. We assume it developed resistance to antibiotics in some unique process that occurred in Gaza.
In the course of the Israeli-Palestinian research some 600 Gaza residents were tested - 300 children and 300 of their parents. Nose swabs were collected and the specimens transported to Sheba Medical Center. Scientists identified the MRSA bacterium in 15 percent of those tested, but also noted that it was not the virulent USA300 strain. It was, rather, a strain that has been identified in European hospitals, but in Gaza it is present in the general community. This strain, which tend to cause skin abscesses and infections was not identified in the West Bank in subsequent testing.
The researchers also noted a connection between the risk of contagion and having a pet cat. The bacterium is liable to be transmitted from person to person via animals, and our findings raise the suspicion that there's a connection between the spread of the bacterium and the many cats in Gaza, said Regev-Yochay, who is also the director of infectious diseases at the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research.
In the next stage, research will be carried out among families to explore the long-term ramifications for people who tested positive, specifically to discover whether they are at greater risk of skin infections and hospitalizations. At the same time, the scientists are working to map the genetics of the Gaza strain of MRSA together with researchers from Harvard University.
The finding, made by a team set up during Israel's war in Gaza, is particularly worrying because Gaza is under blockade and does not have regular access to medication and healthcare due to Israel's control of the import and export of goods.