Your next kiss could turn into an infection that eats your lips off. San Francisco and Boston are reporting outbreaks of drug-resistant staph bacteria that cannot be stopped with any antibiotics currently being used to fight them. When the bacteria come into contact with your skin, they can burrow into tiny cuts and create infections so severe that it's as if the microbes are eating your flesh. The staph is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, especially sexual contact. Right now, it's hitting mostly gay communities but researchers warn it's about to jump into the mainstream population.

A report from the medical center at UC San Francisco says:

The bacteria appear to be transmitted most easily through intimate sexual contact, but can spread through casual skin-to-skin contact or contact with contaminated surfaces. The scientists are concerned that it could also soon gain ground in the general population.

The new strain of bacteria is closely related to the MRSA bacteria that have spread beyond hospital borders in recent years and caused outbreaks of severe skin and other infections. But the newly discovered microbe is resistant to many more front-line antibiotics. Both strains are technically known as MRSA USA300.

Like its less antibiotic-resistant sibling, the new multi-drug resistant microbe spreads easily through skin-to-skin contact, invading skin and tissue beneath the skin. Both strains cause abscesses and ulcerations that can progress rapidly to life-threatening infections.

The best defense may be to scrub yourself down with hot water and soap before any bacteria can take hold.

Sexually-active gay men vulnerable to new bacteria [UCSF]