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Monday, January 14, 2008

Bad News for Gay Men

posted by on January 14 at 21:53 PM

The New York Times is reporting that a new and virulent strain of “flesh-eating” bacteria is spreading among gay men in San Francisco and Boston.

In a study published online by the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the bacteria seemed to be spread most easily through anal intercourse but also through casual skin-to-skin contact and touching contaminated surfaces…. The new strain seems to have “spread rapidly” in gay populations in San Francisco and Boston, the researchers wrote, and “has the potential for rapid, nationwide dissemination” among gay men.

The study was based on a review of medical records from outpatient clinics in San Francisco and Boston and nine medical centers in San Francisco.

The Castro district in San Francisco has the highest number of gay residents in the country, according to the University of California, San Francisco. One in 588 residents is infected with the new multidrug-resistant MRSA strain, the study found. That compares with 1 in 3,800 people in San Francisco, according to statistical analyses based on ZIP codes.

Anything you can do to protect yourself? Yeah, say the docs: scrub with soap and water after skin-to-skin contact. We might also think about reducing the number of our sex partners—you know, having more sex with fewer people. That’s the advice we got at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. It was a pretty effective sexual health strategy, you know, back in the day.

More at Towleroad.

RSS icon Comments


Someone's going to find a way to misread your totally sensible advice. And then somebody's going to question the first person's value system. And we'll have another 175 comment post.

Posted by Big Sven | January 14, 2008 10:23 PM

so... isn't it a little odd that their concern is only for gay men? casual skin-to-skin contact happens all the fucking time! sounds like a huge epidemic.
but maybe I'm missing something.

Posted by citrus | January 14, 2008 10:33 PM

Where's ecce to tell you what a libertine you are for posting this?

Posted by tsm | January 14, 2008 10:43 PM

citrus@2: yeah, but you have to have contact with someone who's got it. And if you're having that kind of contact in a population with very low prevalence, your odds of getting it are also very low.

And it's not just gay men. MRSA is rampant in jails/prisons, homeless shelters, and among people who inject drugs.

Dan's analogy to HIV is not bad. Unsafe sex is really only unsafe if you're having it with someone who is likely to have HIV. If you're screwing tons of middle aged heterosexuals in Fargo, you can reasonably loosen up on the condoms. But, if you're having sex over at Woodland Park you really oughta wrap that puppy pretty good.

Posted by gnossos | January 14, 2008 10:53 PM


First the Seattle LGBT center goes under, and then bacteria eats my flesh. What the fuck is next, Mike Huckabee...

Though I am a bit concerned that this could be the start of a zombie outbreak...

...Damn, was my Gym Teacher the only person that thought to use Bleach to kill MRSA? It's not an Antibacterial Agent, it just kills everything, so MRSA isn't resistant to it.

Posted by Warne Goodman | January 14, 2008 11:02 PM

Oh here we go again! As If EVERY single gay man runs around having sex with what ever has a pulse. You must remember that these infections are happening to Gay men in their 20s and 30s for the most part. The rest of us are invisible and hence immune.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | January 14, 2008 11:07 PM

Aw shucks God! Just when I think those filthy Ho-Mos are winning you go and show us that you DO still care!

Posted by James Dobson | January 14, 2008 11:20 PM

Has anyone yelled at you yet for spreading fear and sex negativity yet? That seems to be some's usual response to "let's stop the disease spreading."

Posted by torrentprime | January 14, 2008 11:32 PM

So, is there some, like, latex body-condom one can wear to avoid this?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 14, 2008 11:34 PM

So, by my (bad) math, 195 people in San Francisco have a drug-resistant strain of flesh-eating bacteria? (that's 744000/3800).

Does that sound like the start of a zombie movie to anyone else?

Posted by Eric F | January 15, 2008 1:08 AM

It only happens to gay gentrifiers.

Posted by HOMeOwner Phobic. | January 15, 2008 2:17 AM

"Oh here we go again! As If EVERY single gay man runs around having sex with what ever has a pulse. You must remember that these infections are happening to Gay men in their 20s and 30s for the most part. The rest of us are invisible and hence immune."

And as well all know, guys in their 20's never have sex with guys in their 40's, especially since us forty-somethings stop having sex after our 39th year.

I am old enough, of course, to remember all the rationales as to why "we" were immune from AIDS -- it's only those sluts in NYC,LA, and Frisco, it's a homophobic media hype meant to drive us back to the closet, et al, et cetera.

La plus ca change, la plus c'est la meme choses

Posted by Rick | January 15, 2008 4:55 AM

Oh sweet Jesus, Falwell's posse is going to have a field day with this...

Posted by Peter | January 15, 2008 6:09 AM

I prefer to look on the bright side: It's a very good reason to take a hot soapy shower with that "special someone" after sex. Or before sex. Or during sex....

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 15, 2008 6:20 AM

Hey... remember that disgusting photo that you posted a while ago? The one from the Savage Love letter writer? Sounds a lot like this...

Posted by bma | January 15, 2008 7:04 AM

It should be noted that you have to believe in evolution before you can believe new flesh eating bacteria can evolve. FWIW.

Posted by elenchos | January 15, 2008 8:42 AM

So what. I already have like 50 of those.

Posted by Mr. Poe | January 15, 2008 8:43 AM

Jack on Proj. Runway seemed to have MRSA and was hugging everyone on the show before he left. Hope they scrubbed up!

Posted by meks | January 15, 2008 9:01 AM

Sensible prevention is a bit easier: use condoms and wash your hands. Skin to skin contact is only problematic if the infected person has open lesions and if the contact is with non-intact skin. MRSA does not seem enter the body through intact skin (hardly anythying does). The biggest danger for those of us without open sores comes from picking up the bacteria on your hands and transporting it to a mucus membrane or sore (by scratching). So after sex make sure you wash your hands. Don't let anxiety over total protection stop you from doing what's probably good enough.

Also this is a good reason for gay men to do what they should have been doing all along - taking good care of the cuticules :-)

Posted by kinaidos | January 15, 2008 9:14 AM

@16-- There was a great cartoon in the New Yorker recently. Shows a guy in a doctor's office, and the doctor says "so, since you don't believe in evolution, I assume penicillin will be fine?"

(I really want to get a copy of that cartoon to put on my door. Are they online anywhere?)

Posted by Hmmm | January 15, 2008 9:21 AM

@16 - perhaps flesh eating bacteria are an expression of the Lord's anger over our fiddling with biochemistry.

Posted by tsm | January 15, 2008 9:28 AM

Actually @19 while it is true that MRSA needs an opening in the skin to really cause problems, many of us are carriers of MRSA as it resides on our skin or nostrils if we are exposed to it. Means we're pretty screwed as this eventually becomes a normal bacterial flora on our skin. We need science to save us again and come up with new antibiotics.

Posted by jhell | January 15, 2008 10:18 AM

More importantly, @12:

Don't call it "Frisco".

Posted by The City | January 15, 2008 10:40 AM

It is always a good idea to wash with hot water and inexpensive soap (yes, I mean it) after sexual congress.

And after using the bathroom.

Very very good advice.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 15, 2008 11:35 AM

"And as well all know, guys in their 20's never have sex with guys in their 40's, especially since us forty-somethings stop having sex after our 39th year."

Well that would explain why one of my friends said he planned to kill himself a few days before he turns 40! lol
Seriously though, why does this seem so much more prevalent among gay men? Is it because it's spread easier through anal sex, and that's more common among gay men?

Posted by Anna | January 15, 2008 11:58 AM

I would expect because gay men in big cities are more closely monitored for epidemiological purposes, and any new trends will be spotted there first.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 15, 2008 12:11 PM

The Reader recently did a cover story on how this is rampant in jails and is now jumping from ex-prisoners to the outside- particularly into low income schools if I remember correctly. Scary stuff.

Posted by chi type | January 15, 2008 12:32 PM

We. Are. All. Doomed.

Time to move to that one room cabin in the wilderness…

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 15, 2008 1:06 PM

@25: Bathhouses

Posted by chicagogreg | January 15, 2008 2:20 PM

@29 But, San Francisco doesn't have bath houses...they closed them all in the 80's.

I know they have a Wet Spot type place, but it's not just for gay men...

Before y'all jump the gun and start pointing fingers at the sluts, plain old regular gyms are notorious breeding grounds for MRSA...since many gay men go to the gym, esp in metropolitan areas, all it takes is one sweaty fag who doesn't use his towel, to cause an epidemic.

That, or some gay sluts were fucking in the sauna, and spread it that way.

Posted by michael strangeways | January 15, 2008 4:33 PM


Don't repeat yourself....

Using the bathroom is a precursor to Congressional Sex!

Oh, you said Sexual Congress.... there goes my dirty mind again

Posted by Larry Craig | January 15, 2008 10:13 PM

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