Doctors have been issued with urgent advice about an "extremely rare" MRSA-linked toxin, after it emerged that a superfit young Marine recruit had died.

Doctors have been issued with urgent advice about an "extremely rare" MRSA-linked toxin, after it emerged that a superfit young Marine recruit had died.

Richard Campbell-Smith, 18, scratched his legs while training and died within days after reportedly becoming infected by the toxin, Panton Valentine Leukocidin (PVL), which is linked to MRSA.

A medical expert at his inquest in Exeter revealed the disease was thought to have died out in the 1950s - but she had seen two cases in nine weeks, and wanted to alert the public and medics.

A spokeswoman for the Health Protection Agency told the Press Association: "We are aware of strains of Staphylococcus aureus with PVL, but it is extremely rare in the UK.

"There is a surveillance scheme for this, but when we have Staphylococcus aureus samples in our laboratory we test a proportion of them for PVL. We have issued advice for clinicians so that if they suspect patients that may have this infection, they can send us the patient's sample for us to test in the laboratory."

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium which lives harmlessly in about one third of normal healthy people, but bacteria resistant to the antibiotic methicillin are termed methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Community-acquired MRSA (C-MRSA) affects a previously healthy individual who has no recognised risk factors associated with MRSA. Some of the strains carry the toxin Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL), which attacks white blood cells, leaving the sufferer unable to fight infection.

The 18-year-old was four weeks from the end of his 32-week course at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon, when he reportedly scratched his legs while running on October 31 last year.

He was admitted to the medical unit, and later taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital where he died on November 2.

A post-mortem examination showed heart and respiratory failure, and traces of PVL were later found.

His grandmother Edwina Fooks, from Bournemouth, Dorset, reportedly told the inquest she was worried when he said he was cold and felt unwell because "he never feels the cold and it was so unusual for him to be unwell."

She added: "He was dedicated to the Marines. He was doing what he wanted to do. He worked hard and got on very well. On the field exercise he got bad blisters on his feet and cuts on his legs from gorse.

"The bacteria got in his blood and caused his organs to collapse.

"Apparently it is very difficult to detect and nobody was expecting it."

Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earlan recorded a verdict of accidental death, and told Friday's hearing she would make a recommendation to the chief medical officer to disseminate information to all doctors, updating them on likely symptoms.

Comments