07/15/2011 10:21 am ET | Updated Sep 14, 2011

MRSA Superbug: Can Coffee And Tea Protect You?

More good news for coffee drinkers? Possibly.

A government study looked at 5,500 Americans and found those that drank tea or coffee had half the chance of carrying the MRSA superbug in their nasal carriage. Scientists have long been aware of tea and coffee's antimicrobial properties.

"Our findings raise the possibility of a promising new method to decrease MRSA nasal carriage that is safe, inexpensive, and easily accessible," wrote the study authors in the Annals Of Family Medicine.

Still, more research is needed. Lead researcher Eric Matheson, of the University of South Carolina, told Reuters:

The study shows an association between the two, but you never can conclude causation from an association. I can't tell you that this finding isn't just a coincidence.

Since it's discovery in the early 1960s, the antibiotic-resistant "superbug" MRSA, short for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, has been quickly spreading across the U.S. and oversees -- suggesting epidemic levels.

From WebMD:

MRSA often causes illness when it comes into contact with an open skin wound. People with weakened immune systems are at higher than average risk of having an MRSA-related illness. Hospital-acquired MRSA accounts for many fatal MRSA infections.

In June a new strain of MRSA was discovered in cow's milk. While alarming, researchers said it was unlikely the bacteria would seep into the food chain.