February 18, 2009

One Source Of Staph Infection Declining

US health officials reported Tuesday that the rates of drug-resistant staph infections are increasing, while some hospitals are beginning to curb at least one source of infection in some of their sickest patients.

The CDC found that rates of MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections, caused by tubes used to give fluids and drugs to intensive-care patients, fell 50 percent between 1997 and 2007. 

Many experts believe poor hospital practices are to blame for the growing problem of drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals worldwide, marked by the rise of superbugs such as MRSA.

The CDC estimates that 94,000 Americans get serious, invasive MRSA infections each year and nearly 19,000 die.

Dr. Deron Burton and colleagues studied hospital data on blood infections caused by tubes inserted into veins known as central line catheters.

Researchers included data for both adult and pediatric intensive care units between 1997 and 2007.

They found 1,684 intensive care units reported a total of 33,587 blood infections caused by central line catheters.

Researchers found that 2,498, or about 7 percent, were drug-resistant strains of MRSA, and 1,590, or 4.7 percent, were staph infections that were susceptible to antibiotics.

They reported the findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study noted that the overall percentage of infections caused by MRSA increased, but the actual number of MRSA cases fell by half during the study period. They found steady declines in the infection rate reported from 2001 through 2007.

Researchers believe the improvements are contributed to hospitals that are following CDC-recommended prevention guidelines.

Dr. Michael Climo of the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, said the report reveals major progress is being made in decreasing the number of hospital-acquired infections.

"Despite this progress, most ICUs are far from the goal of zero infections and many have not implemented suggested prevention strategies," Climo wrote.

In the past, MRSA had been a major concern only in hospitals, attacking patients who are already weakened by disease, bit recent outbreaks in schools and other public places have raised concerns.


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