It's an oddly patriotic-sounding name for this frightening new flesh-eating, drug-resistant staph strain making headlines this week: USA300. Who names this shit? Anyway, it's on a rampage, especially among gay men in several major U.S. cities -- including San Francisco. First spotted in 2001, it's since morphed (so like a comic book arch-villain) "from laboratory curiosity into the dominant form of staph infection in much of the United States."
Cue the dire warnings:
"Once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable," said Binh Diep, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who led the study. "That's why we're trying to spread the message of prevention."
And USA300 -- one of a dozen varieties of staphylococcus aureus or MRSA -- is a very nasty little bastard indeed: it attacks the body's organs "forcing doctors to amputate fingers, toes and limbs," and only responds to pricey, intravenous antibiotics. The worst news of all is how easily it's spreading:
"The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated last fall that drug-resistant staph was killing 19,000 Americans a year - more than are dying of AIDS."
What can you do about it? According to UCSF researcher Binh Diep, the best way to avoid infection is by washing the hands or genitals with soap and water. So let's get to it, folks.
-- Brian Bernbaum