MRSA on the Apsaalooke Reservation
Project Leader: Jovanka Voyich-Kane, MSU
Mentor: Allen Harmsen, MSU
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is one of the most prominent human pathogens and causes widespread human disease ranging from mild skin infections to fatal necrotizing pneumonia and sepsis. During the past several years there has been an alarming increase in the number of community-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA) infections in individuals with no identified MRSA risk factors, such as recent hospitalization, intravenous drug use, kidney dialysis, or residence in a long-term healthcare facility. Although, anyone can become infected with CA-MRSA data suggests the pathogen disproportionately affects children, young adults, and individuals from racial minority groups or those from low socioeconomic status. One minority group particularly affected is the Native Americans of Montana’s Indian reservations. Thus, the objective of this project is to utilize a mixed-method approach to educate and effectively work with American Indians of Montana to reduce the incidence of CA-MRSA infections occurring in individuals living on reservations. A surveillance program will be initiated on the Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation to characterize S. aureus in this American Indian population. The approach includes 3 specific objectives. The first objective is to survey members of the reservation to determine risks of CA-MRSA and assess understanding of S. aureus among individuals living on reservations. Secondly, S. aureus nasal and skin colonization will be characterized and the clonal isolates colonizing members and those causing disease will be defined. Thirdly, public awareness of MRSA will be increased by holding public forums where members can gain knowledge on prevention, treatment, and comfortably ask questions. One major goal is to expand this project to include other Indian reservations in the state of Montana to ultimately improve public health in the American Indian population. The aforementioned mixed-method approach will characterize the S. aureus clonal types causing infections and begin to identify risk factors for acquiring community–associated S. aureus infections via molecular analysis of isolates and community-based participatory research.
The occurrence of CA-MRSA on Montana’s Indian Reservations is a health disparity. The chain of events resulting in this health disparity has not been adequately investigated. This mixed-method project is designed to begin to understand why CA-MRSA is at epidemic proportions on some of Montana’s American Indian reservations. Knowledge gained from this study will ultimately improve health in this minority group.