MRSA Infections Nearly Doubled Over Last 10 Years: Study

Published: November 27th, 2009

U.S. researchers indicate that there has been a 90% increase in antibiotic-resistant “superbug” infections since 1999, as strains circulating both in hospitals and the community continue relatively unabated.

The study, published in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases medical journal, pulled data from 300 microbiology laboratories. Researchers at the University of New Jersey found that not only is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) spreading outside of hospitals as well as within, but that outpatients being admitted to hospitals were major contributors to infections spread within hospitals as well.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 2 million hospital infections acquired each year, resulting in about 90,000 deaths annually. Another 1.5 million long term care and nursing home infections occur every year.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as a MRSA infection, has accounted for more than 60 percent of hospital staph infections in recent years. The CDC reports that about 126,000 hospital MRSA infections occur each year, resulting in about 5,000 deaths. But the researchers suggest that the number of deaths from MRSA in the U.S. is closer to 20,000 annually.

The rate of community-acquired infections (CA-MRSA) increased by about 33% annually, researchers found, resulting in an overall MRSA increase of 10% every year. And those infected individuals often made their way into U.S. hospitals, where they then infected hospital staff and other patients, even while hospitals slowed their own rate of infection, the study found.

“Outpatients, who outnumber inpatients by [about] 3:1, may play a major role in the spread of CA-MRSA strains from the community to the hospital through their interaction with hospital staff or use of similar hospital resources, such as surgical rooms,” researchers stated.

As more hospitals and medical facilities have begun to follow protocols designed to reduce the risk of hospital infections, those that have not established the standards or enforced the rules have been found by juries in medical malpractice lawsuits to be providing care that does not fall within the ordinary standard of care for the industry.

University of New Jersey researchers said that the community strains now entering hospitals are not replacing hospital strains, but instead are adding to the numbers of people infected, and said that strategies for prevention of infection and treatment of patients needs to be coordinated at the local level.

“Infection control policies should take into account the role that outpatients likely play in the spread of MRSA and promote interventions that could prevent spread of MRSA from outpatient areas to inpatient areas,” Researchers concluded.