UCSF seeks to clarify research on MRSA and gay men

The University of California San Francisco has issued a statement on a study that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on the emergence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus clone USA300 in men who have sex with men.

The university responded after some antigay groups picked up the report, using it to say that homosexual behavior is “sexual deviancy” and “unhealthy.”

Gay rights groups labeled the response by those groups as “hysteria,” and so on Friday, UCSF issued an apology, saying the release “contained some information that could be interpreted as misleading.”

“We regret that our recent news report (1-14-08) about an important population-based study on MRSA USA300 with public health implications contained some information that could be interpreted as misleading,” the release said, which was issued by the UCSF Public Affairs department. “We deplore negative targeting of specific populations in association with MRSA infections or other public health concerns, and we will be working to ensure that accurate information about the research is disseminated to the health community and the general public.”

Memphis resident Jim Maynard wrote O&AN that “turns out all that hysteria about the new “Gay Plague” (the new strain of staph linked to gay men) was WRONG! It is NOT a sexually transmitted diseases and it is NOT limited to any segment of the population.”

Maynard added “of course that didn¹t stop the anti-gay bigots from flaming more homophobic hysteria.”

The New York Times reported that Dr. Henry Chambers, one of the report’s authors and a professor of medicine at the university, said he was surprised by how the report had been spun.

“I think we were looking at this from a scientific point of view and not projecting any political impact,” he told the New York Times in a story published on Sunday, Jan. 20. “We were focusing on the data. You want to make sure it’s as right as possible and written up in a form that reviewers would understand what you’re trying to say, and do it in a clear manner so it’s not subject to misinterpretation. Which is what happened later, it appears.”

Out & About Newspaper did quote two medical sources who said they had not seen any evidence of the problem among gay men in Middle Tennessee. 

Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chair of the department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center , said the numbers published in the initial research were “admittedly imprecise”.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which helped finance the research, said last week that the disease was not sexually transmitted or limited to a certain type of person.

“It is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact,” the CDC said in a statement, and is “widespread in hospitals and among hospital workers.”

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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