Study: Antibiotic Ointments May Aid Spread of MRSA
Researchers Suggest That Antibiotic Ointments May Be a Factor in Spread of Strain Called USA300
Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Neosporin and Polysporin, say the researchers haven't proven a connection between the use of the ointments and resistance to the antibiotics in them.
"This small study did not evaluate any relationship between development of resistance to bacteria and the usage of over the counter antibiotic ointments for the prevention of infection and the authors themselves convey that further research would be needed to reach any significant conclusions," says Jodie Wertheim, a spokeswoman for the company, in an email. "It should also be noted that antibiotic ointments have been used safely for years to provide a broad-spectrum of protection against a wide variety of germs."
More Study Needed
Experts who reviewed the study say that while its findings are intriguing, they need to be duplicated on a larger scale before any firm conclusions can be made about the role of antibiotic ointments in MRSA spread or resistance.
"This study is a first step to saying 'Hey, there may be a real problem here,'" says Lance Price, PhD, associate professor of pathogen genomics at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Ariz. "So now we need to do a multi-nation study to really look at this."
But he says it makes sense to use caution with any kind of antibiotics.
"You know, if you use antibiotics routinely, you're going to end up with resistance," Price tells WebMD. "We've really got to be careful."
Other experts agree.
"I think this is an interesting paper. It brings up an important issue," says David T. Bearden, PharmD, a clinical associate professor and chair of the department of pharmacy practice at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
"We don't really know very much about topical products, how to use them, when to use them, what resistance means or what this does to further change [bacterial] resistance patterns," says Bearden, who was not involved in the research.
Other experts said that the study had weaknesses that could make its findings less reliable.
Suzanne F. Bradley, MD, professor of internal medicine and an infectious disease specialist at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, says one concern is that nine of the USA300 samples came from a single outbreak. That makes it more likely, she says, that they are genetically identical and were simply passed around in the community.
Additionally, she says, the researchers give no details about the patients who had these strains, so it's impossible to know if they personally used antibiotic ointments or came from countries where they are more common.
Bradley also says the researchers offered little evidence to prove their assertion that antibiotic ointment is widely used in the U.S. but not in other countries.