CA-MRSA study: Media coverage draws fire

March 1, 2008

The University of California, San Francisco, news release on the CA-MRSA paper highlighted the "superbug" nature of the research. It also used language suggesting that gay men were not part of the "general population."

Key Points

National Report - The University of California, San Francisco, news release on the CA-MRSA paper highlighted the "superbug" nature of the research. It also used language suggesting that gay men were not part of the "general population."

A San Francisco Chronicle article included the gay angle in its account of the study, while the New York Times used the terms "flesh-eating" and "anal intercourse" in its coverage.

The media attention roused the activist gay community of San Francisco, which saw parallels to the coverage of HIV in the early years of the epidemic. It stressed there was nothing new about the fact that MDR MRSA can be transmitted through direct contact.

By the end of the week, the university news office and lead researcher had both apologized.

"We regret that our recent news report about an important population-based study on MRSA USA300 with public health implications contained some information that could be interpreted as misleading," an amended news release stated.

The Times had run a second article that clarified the initial one.