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Drug-Resistant 'Superbug' in Australia Fueling Fear of Epidemic

"Australia is facing an epidemic of a drug-resistant superbug that attacks healthy teenagers and can be fatal, leading scientists have warned. A summit of 350 international microbiologists will converge on Cairns today to discuss the global health threat posed by resistant staphylococcal infections -- also known as MRSA superbugs. Of particular concern is a new virulent form of the flesh-eating bug that can lead to a severe form of pneumonia that causes death in up to 50% of cases.

Unlike hospital-acquired MRSA, which affects mostly elderly patients, the community strain of the bug carries far more toxic genes and can be picked up in communal settings. Similar bugs in the U.S. have led to the deaths of several teenagers and schools being shut and disinfected. Experts at the conference say the bug is on the rise in Australia and patients are presenting to emergency departments with infected boils that can lead to abscesses and gaping wounds.

Associate Professor Keryn Christiansen, director of microbiology at Royal Perth Hospital and co-ordinator of the conference, said antibiotics seemed to have no effect. 'We're looking at a major epidemic. These are much more virulent strains of these bugs   We're seeing more people coming to our emergency departments, more people admitted with more severe infections and we're seeing people die. It's happening right across Australia,' she said."

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