Staring at trees shrubs inside the forest

Researchers released an interesting report today. Consider:

Community-acquired methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are cropping up with surprising frequency in newborn boys, and mom could be involved, researchers reported here.

It’s always useful to study increases in infection rates, so this report is no doubt important, but I have no knowledge to add to the increase in MRSA, nor am I trying to imply any. I want to take a different angle on this, and anyone who’s read my writings probably knows where I’m going with this. I am going there, but not with the attack some might expect.

The word “circumcision” jumped out at me, as you probably guessed. I’m not looking to get into a “circumcision causes increased MRSA infections” because I can’t prove that, even if I thought it true. Reading through the rest of the article, I don’t get the impression that it’s remotely indicated in the research. I think that’s a dead-end. For me to argue that, I’d have to read something that implied it. Also, having gotten into enough circumcision debates to know what hysteria looks like, I wouldn’t go there. The facts are on my side. Throwing baseless arguments around just because I want to win would only hurt my case. My only argument going forward is a matter of semantics and how those semantics flaunt simple reason. The rest of this entry should be read as arguing nothing more than that.

What I want to focus on is inherent in the excerpted sentence above and these paragraphs further down in the article:

They drew from data on a prospective cohort of all children treated at Texas Children’s hospital for S. aureus infections between the summer of 2001 and the spring of 2005. The cases were classified by route of acquisition, either nosocomial or community acquired.

They looked at the demographics, hospital course and outcome of a subgroup of patients who were younger than 30 days old when they were diagnosed with community-acquired MRSA. The babies, all of whom were full-term or near-term neonates (> 36 weeks gestation) had been healthy before being infected with community acquired S. aureus. They defined as previously healthy any child who had no hospitalizations other than at birth, and no surgery other than circumcision.

Why does “no surgery other than circumcision” keep coming up? Circumcision is surgery, even if proponents wish to portray it as just a little snip. (It’s much more than “just a little snip,” but I’ve already discussed that.”) Why exclude it, especially if you’re trying to portray the infants as healthy? In what other circumstances do we operate on healthy children? It’s ludicrous to associate the two, as if they can logically co-exist in the same realm of logic. They can’t. Yes, I know I’m being extremely nit-picky about this, but I remain baffled that otherwise intelligent people possess such a blind spot in their medical thinking.

2 thoughts on “Staring at trees shrubs inside the forest”

  1. Tony:
    I saw the same report and I had the same reaction. The open wound created by circumcision is vulnerable to Staph infections.[1] Moreover, staph infection is passed around the nursery.[2] Furthermore, an outbreak of staph in male infants in a nursery has been reported.[3]
    Ending the practice of non-therapeutic male circumcision would go a long way toward protecting boys from methicillin-resistant stapholoccus-aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (VRSA), and erythomycin-resistant staphylococcus-aureus (ERSA).
    1. Enzenauer RW, Dotson CR, Leonard T, et al. Male predominance in persistent staphylococcal colonization and infection of the newborn. Hawaii Medical Journal 1985;44(10):389-90, 392, 394-6.
    2. Hurst V: Transmission of hospital staphylococci among newborn infants. Pediatrics 1960;25:204-214.
    3. Zafar AB, Butler RC, Reese DJ, et al. Use of 0.3% triclosan (Bacti-Stat) to eradicate an outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in a neonatal nursery. Am J Infect Control 1995;23(3):200-8.

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