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Santino's staph scare

Quaranta and team doctor recount last week’s episode

Santino Quaranta, D.C. United

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Getty Images

D.C. United has only played eight matches of the MLS regular season, but they have already had to deal with a season’s worth of injuries. The injuries are not an excuse for the record, but they surely haven’t helped. The team has suffered a variety of injuries as you learned last week on dcunited.com. More recently, Santino Quaranta suffered another medical setback as he contracted a staph infection. Santino’s infection was not very widely publicized, even though it was a week-long ordeal from the time he first noticed a problem until the point when it was all taken care of. Quaranta will be training with the team again soon, but his situation during that period was serious.

On Wednesday, May 5, United beat Kansas City at RFK Stadium. The next day, one day before the team was going to travel for the weekend match against FC Dallas, Quaranta noticed a small red bump on his leg. The innocent-looking mark wasn’t much of a concern at first, but like so much this season for D.C. United, things quickly went from bad to worse.

Santino remembered how the situation began, “It was Thursday night, I was actually at my daughter’s soccer practice and I saw this red spot, it kind of looked like a spider bite. It was really painful and it started to get worse and worse as the night went on. I called the trainers late - it was probably like 9:30 p.m. I wasn’t even going to call or let them see it until we got back on Sunday, because I was planning on starting and playing down there [in Dallas].”

It’s a good thing he did call since he was admitted into the hospital late that night. According to team doctor Chris Annunziata, by Friday morning it was clear that Quaranta had a staphylococcus or staph infection.

Dr. Annunziata talked about Quanranta’s condition, “In a 24-hour period, it really took off from a mild skin infection to more of an abscess. When it progresses quickly like that, you presume it’s staph, because staph in general is a really aggressive organism.”

There are many kinds of staph infections. Quaranta contracted one of the more serious ones categorized as MRSA (pronounced MURR-sa).

Dr. Annunziata gave a quick yet thorough explanation of why this type of infection is more serious. “The first big drug that came out to fight infection in the 1940’s was penicillin. Then we started noticing that some organisms started becoming resistant to penicillin and they made a synthetic version that had a little bit different chemical structure. And they were very aggressive, very potent antibiotics. Now, what we starting to see, is some organisms are becoming more resistant to even these potent antibiotics.”

MRSA infections do not respond to treatment from the synthetic penicillin known a Methicillin. The MR of MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant.

Friday morning, Dr. Annunziata performed the initial procedure on Quaranta. The first plan was to puncture the wound and drain the pus. Dr. Annunziata said in most cases, draining the pus, along with changing the dressing of the wound regularly, was enough to get it cleared up in a few days. But after the initial procedure, Dr. Annunziata wasn’t convinced that the usual treatment would be the most effective. So instead of waiting to see how Quaranta’s healing progressed, Dr. Annunziata performed a second operation.

“Really, quite frankly, he was really uncomfortable. So all I did was make a more formal incision and open it up more and cleaned it out.”

Quaranta was discharged from the hospital on Friday, one week after being admitted. It’s easy to consider Quaranta’s ordeal as another dose of bad luck, but Santino doesn’t feel that way at all.

“It could’ve been a lot worse for me. As an athlete, you never want to not play, especially when you’re that close to a game. I don’t know what made me call. I had kind of a strawberry above it from the game the weekend before, and it just kind of popped up and I thought it was nothing. I’m pretty fortunate.”

Dr. Annunziata also commented about the seriousness of MRSA, “It’s not necessarily more aggressive, it doesn’t mean it’s a killer bug and people are dying left and right from MRSA, that’s not the case. It’s concerning in that you’re starting to lose options in regards to how to treat it. This potent brand of antibiotics is not effective against it so you only have a couple other options available to you.”

Quaranta’s staph infection is a thing of the past. Now, he joins a large number of teammates trying to regain full health and rejoin the team. Quaranta is most likely to be available for the next home match against Chivas USA, but he hopes to be ready for the international friendly against AC Milan.