MRSA may be treated with single-dose antibiotic

A new, single-dose antibiotic may be as effective as traditional treatment against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a dangerous strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In a new study from Duke Medicine in Durham, N.C., researchers found that the new drug, oritavancin, is as effective as the current standard treatment for the skin infection, which requires a twice-daily antibiotic infusion administered for up to 10 days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MRSA infections can appear like spider bites and may be red, swollen, painful and accompanied by a fever.

Sometimes, when patients are prescribed antibiotics, they tend to stop taking the drugs once they start feeling better – but this can allow bacteria to survive and become resistant to treatment. Fortunately, the new drug has a long half-life, meaning it will be effective over the whole treatment period after just a single dose.

"Having a single-dose drug could potentially prevent hospitalizations or reduce the amount of time patients would spend in the hospital," said lead study author Dr. G. Ralph Corey.

In a randomized trial of 954 patients, researchers found a single intravenous dose of oritavancin was as effective at reducing the skin lesion and lowering fever as the standard treatment drug vancomycin. The most common side effects with oritavancin use were nausea, headache, vomiting and diarrhea.

In an editorial accompanying the research, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Henry F. Chambers, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said the one-shot antibiotic transfusion could transform acute bacterial skin infection treatment and change management of these infections.

“These patients could potentially just get an antibiotic and not be admitted to the hospital at all,” Chambers told the New York Times in a telephone interview. “The big question is, how much money do the drug companies want in order to be able to do that? It won’t be chump change.”

Skin infections are the most common reasons doctors use intravenous antibiotics. In recent decades, rates of infection have risen to an estimated 15 million cases annually that cause 870,000 hospitalizations.

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