Complications from MRSA Infections in Children Increase Significantly if Untreated: Study

More than one-quarter of all children infected with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA will develop serious complications, according to the findings of new research that highlights the importance of prompt treatment.

In a study published this month by the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers indicate that overall children are less likely to die from a MRSA infection than adults; but children are more likely to experience very serious complications, such as the infection spreading to other parts of the body, especially if treatment is delayed.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is another form of a “staph” infection, which is resistant to some antibiotics, making it very difficult to treat. MRSA causes more than 80,000 infections and 11,000 deaths every year in the U.S., killing up to 30 percent of individuals infected.

In this latest study, researchers discovered that MRSA behaves differently among children than adults, often causing serious complications.

Researchers focused on 232 MRSA cases involving children under the age of 18, in three children’s hospitals between 2007 and 2014. There are high rates of treatment failure among adults with MRSA, and researchers concluded that among children, treatment failed in nearly one-third of infections.

Similarly, nearly one-quarter of children infected with MRSA will experience severe complications. The study also indicated about two percent of children died from the infection. While death rates are low, complications rates are still worrisome.

Among adults, MRSA lasts about 8 to 9 days. In children, the infection lasts an average of 2 days. However, researchers concluded for each additional day of infection, children faced a 50 percent increased risk of complications, highlighting the importance of prompt treatment.

Researchers stress that MRSA treatments for children should be started early, and done aggressively to prevent serious problems, including infections in other areas of the body or a more critical illness which could become life threatening.

In the study, only 24 children were infected with MRSA for more than 24 days; but 3 of those children died as a result of the long illness and further complications.

Researchers warn, children need to be treated not only with strong effective antibiotics, but also other focuses should be made, such as draining abscesses or removing contaminated catheters to prevent further infections.

Current standards call for doctors to use treatment methods studied on adults, not children. However, knowing the infection behaves differently in children should prompt different treatments.

While most MRSA infections typically occur in the hospital, the children involved in this study had symptoms before coming to the hospital. Researchers warn that preventing the infection, rather than treating it, is key.

The CDC announced the number of MRSA infections declined from 2005 to 2011, mostly due to national hospital prevention efforts.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that hospital efforts to focus on preventing MRSA lead to a significant reduction in the spread of the infection. Prevention efforts like using antiseptic wipes and antibiotic nose ointments reduced the risk of MRSA by 40 percent.

In this latest study, researchers recommend that parents check hospital MRSA infection rates before their children is admitted for surgery, and have their children tested for MRSA before surgery. They should also be persistent about hand washing and pay attention to the warning signs of the infection, which may start as a bug bite that rapidly swells and progresses to an abscess. Flu like symptoms are also very common.

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