MRSA Infections Down in American ICUs

February 19, 2009 02:02 PM
by Denis Cummings
A government report finds that, since 1997, the rate of antibiotic-resistant MRSA infections is down almost 50 percent in ICUs, where patients are most vulnerable to infection.

MRSA Rate Declines Nearly 50 Percent

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of MRSA infections contracted through intravenous tubes fell 49.6 percent between 1997 and 2007. The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, studied 600 U.S. hospitals over the 10-year period.

MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria most commonly contracted in hospitals.

“This is the first bit of good news in a couple of years,” wrote epidemiologist Michael William Climo in an editorial for the Journal of the American Medical Association. “It’s the first good documentation that the rates in the hospitals are going down.”
The drop was part of a larger trend of declining bloodstream infections in intensive-care unit patients. Though the overall rate of MRSA cases decreased, the percentage of MRSA infections among all infections actually increased.

Dr. Deron Burton, lead author of the study, attributes the decline of hospital infections to increased vigilance of CDC prevention guidelines. “During the 10-year study period, improved methods of inserting catheters, shorter leave-in times for catheters, as well as improved hygiene and isolation practices have all become more routine,” reports Time.

These practices must be continued diligently for the infection rates to continue downward, says Climo, who writes that the study “leaves the unsettling realization that the observed reductions in infection cannot be attributed to any particular intervention.”

Background: MRSA; superbugs

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is the most common drug-resistant bacterial infection, known as a “superbug,” in the United States. In 2006, 104,000 Americans were infected and nearly 19,000 died, according to Bloomberg.

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics often contribute to the spread of drug-resistant bacterial infections, which are formed when bacteria develops an immunity to antibiotics. “Superbugs emerge when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the bacteria it targets, and the surviving bacteria become resistant to that particular drug and frequently other antibiotics as well,” writes the Mayo Clinic. “Doctors then prescribe a stronger antibiotic, but the bacteria quickly learn to withstand the more potent drug as well, perpetuating a cycle in which increasingly powerful drugs are required to treat infections.”

MRSA is spread easily in hospitals among sick patients, who are most vulnerable to the infection. Many of these infections are spread by touch, either person to person or through objects. Health authorities have emphasized the importance of hand-washing, instrument sterilization and general hospital hygiene in preventing the spread of superbugs.

Reference: Journal of the American Medical Association


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