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Reported cases of Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL) – a toxin associated with a bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus – have increased 10 fold in England in the last six years, according to figures published by the HPA


In 2010, 2,227 cases of PVL were referred to the HPA's Staphylococcal reference unit for identification, up from 224 cases in 2005. Previously many cases of PVL were simply unidentified infections, meaning patients did not always receive the optimum treatment. Increased reporting of this infection following a HPA and Department of Health campaign may be behind the rise in cases recorded.

PVL infections tend to attack the skin and cause painful boils and abscesses, which are often treated with antibiotics and/or incision and drainage. In addition to the increase in reporting of PVL, HPA scientists have discovered that of all the staphylococcal boil and abscess isolates referred to their labs, 65 per cent are caused by PVL. This means they are potentially more aggressive and likely to spread and require careful treatment to clear the infection and to make sure it doesn't return. Over a third of staphylococcal boils and abscesses identified by the HPA lab are thought to be recurrent so effective treatment and management is crucial.

Many people naturally carry Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in their nose and it does not cause any infection. However, sometimes it can cause a mild infection in a healthy patient and if it is methicillin resistant (MRSA) can be harder to treat.

Dr Angela Kearns, head of the Staphylococcal reference unit at the HPA said:

"Confirming that PVL is the cause of the majority of staphylococcal boils and abscesses referred to the HPA in England is a significant step in our understanding of this infection and has helped to improve treatment for patients presenting to their GPs with these conditions. GPs now have immediate access to the guidelines on the HPA's website which give a succinct step-by-step guide to the most appropriate treatment for boils and abscesses caused by PVL infection.

"Back in 2005 the HPA launched a health campaign with the Department of Health involving microbiologists and health care workers across the UK, with the aim to encourage reporting to the HPA of unusual boils and abscesses.

"We are extremely pleased about the increase in reporting as it has enabled us to achieve a better understanding of the incidence of PVL infection in the UK.

"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."

Dr Kearns continued: "The risk to the general UK public of becoming infected with PVL is very small. However we will continue to work actively alongside healthcare colleagues to raise awareness of this infection, as well as ensuring appropriate research continues to monitor trends in the infection both in the UK and globally."

Source: ©HPA

Written by Scott Buckler
Thursday, 17 February 2011 10:10

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