Hospital Superbug Infections on the Decline

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The antibiotic-resistant microbe MRSA may be slowing its pace after rampaging through hospitals for years, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

From 2005 to 2008, surveillance data from nine metropolitan areas showed an overall decline of 28 percent in severe infections with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) contracted in healthcare settings.

"We are encouraged by the findings," said CDC's Dr. Alexander Kallen, whose study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although the data aren't nationally representative, he said they bolster earlier studies and are "very good evidence that invasive MRSA infections are decreasing."

Versions of Staphylococcus aureus resistant to the penicillin-like antibiotic methicillin were first discovered in the UK in the early 1960s; since then, the multidrug-resistant bacterium has cropped up and become a problem around the world, especially its persistent spread in hospitals.

In 2005, researchers estimate the bug caused severe infections in nearly 95,000 Americans, killing more than 18,500 of them.

The new study, drawing on surveillance data for a population of about 15 million people in nine metropolitan areas, looked only at infections in which the bacteria had invaded a sterile part of the body, such as the blood and joints.

Of the more than 21,500 cases identified, more than three-quarters were in people who were hospitalized or had been in recent contact with the healthcare system.

Kallen said the number of people who had acquired the bug somewhere other than a healthcare facility was too small to provide good data.

Over the four-year study period, the occurrence of severe MRSA infections that showed up while a patient was hospitalized dropped by nine percent each year, from an initial rate of about one in 10,000.


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