Ten times as many cases of a bacteria-generated toxin from MRSA are being reported today compared with six years ago.
Data from the Health Protection Agency shows 224 reported cases in 2005 and 2,227 cases in 2010.
The toxin, known as Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL), is known to have been a factor in the recent deaths of several people in the UK. It infects and inflames skin, causing abscesses and boils.
Antibiotics can treat PVL but they can become ineffective as the toxin adapts to resist the medication.
Of all staphylococcal boil and abscess samples referred to the health agency’s labs, 65% are caused by PVL. Experts believe they are potentially more aggressive and likely to spread, and therefore require careful treatment. Around a third of the cases are said to be recurrent, meaning treatment must be made as effective as possible.
The agency’s Angela Kearns said the findings had helped to improve treatment for patients. She added: “These latest figures also give us reassurance that the UK is not experiencing the epidemic levels of PVL infection which have been observed in other countries, most notably the United States.”
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