Bad bugs like zinc

By Ann Griswold • Published: March 31st, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Zinc has long been touted as a cold elixir, but a new study suggests zinc coatings commonly used on medical equipment may actually keep you sick for longer, by helping bad bugs thrive.

A University of Cincinati study finds that zinc helps protect a methicillin-resistant strain of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus… also known as [MERSA]… and a related bacterium called Staphylococcus epidermidis. [MERSA] and other antibiotic-resistant bugs are behind an alarming number of persistent hospital-acquired infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly twenty-thousand deaths each year are caused by [MERSA] in the United States alone. Not only is this bug resistant to antibiotics, its slimy overcoat helps it stick to almost any material, including artificial implants and joints. The researchers found that removing zinc from the equation renders the bacteria helpless and reduces the chances that patients will become infected.

Many hospitals are taking an aggressive approach to reduce the spread of this bacterium by doing everything from installing hand sanitizers to covertly monitoring medical personnel for proper hand-washing techniques. But [MERSA] may be harder to squelch than originally thought. A recent study finds that up to fifteen percent of hospital workers carry this superbug in their noses.

The researchers say they hope to coat future artificial implants with a non-toxic acid capable of preventing bacterial growth. Until then, the best way to prevent infection is by washing your hands frequently… and hoping your nurses and doctors do the same!