According to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospital staph infections in intensive care units (ICU) dropped nearly 50% between 1997 and 2007. The reduction appears to be largely due to an increased awareness of the risk and prevention steps that have been put in place at many hospitals.
The government study, which is published in the current edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at data reported to the CDC from 1997 to 2007 involving nearly 600 hospitals in the United States. Researchers looked at the rates of staph infections known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which occurred as a result of ICU catheters carrying the bacteria.
MRSA infections are difficult to treat, as they are resistant to a large group of antibiotics. The infections most commonly occur in hospitals and healthcare facilities and can be deadly if it enters the blood stream.
Over the 10 year period reviewed, there were 33,587 bloodstream infections from intravenous (IV) tubes or catheters in ICU patients and about 7.4% or 2,498, of these hospital infections were due to MRSA.
Researchers found that there were about 43 hospital MRSA infections for every 100,000 ICU patients who used an IV tube for a day in 1997. The number dropped to 21 per 100,000 in 2007.
The study is the first to show that hospital MRSA infection rates are dropping, demonstrating a decline of nearly 50% among ICU patients, who are vulnerable to such infections because of the weakened state of their health.
Bloodstream, urinary tract and surgical site infections are among the most common and deadly hospital infections. In 2006, MRSA caused about 19,000 deaths in the U.S. and 104,000 fatal cases were because of serious illness, according to the CDC.
In recent years, there have been an increasing number of hospital infection lawsuits filed throughout the United States, as many experts believe that many of these potentially life-threatening infections can be prevented if steps are taken by the hospital and staff.
These steps could include improved methods of handling catheter during insertion, leaving them in for shorter periods and improved hygiene. Many hospitals have instituted new rules to ensure that hands are washed and increased efforts are being taken to keep areas lie the ICU more sterile and catheters clean.