Nursing Home Infection Rates Rise as Community-Assisted MRSA Spreads

Community-associated strains of drug resistant staph infections are spreading through U.S. nursing homes, according to the findings of new research. 

A study conducted by University of California researchers was published in the current issue of the medical journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, indicating that strains of methicillin-resistant Staphhylococcus aureus (MRSA) were found in almost every nursing home surveyed. The findings also suggest that those nursing homes with a younger population are most at risk.

MRSA comes in two forms, strains spread through hospitals, from patient to patient, and community-assisted strains, which come from colonies of bacteria on non-hospital patients, particularly children and young adult. The carriers often are not infected themselves, and the two different types, hospital and community-assisted, are genetically different and recognizable through testing.

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Researchers conducted swabs on hundreds of residents at 22 California nursing home. Community-assisted MRSA, while only accounting for 25% of the MRSA detected, was present in 20 of those 22 facilities. Detecting the bacteria does not mean that the patients were infected, however. MRSA must enter the blood through cuts or other means to cause an actual infection.

CA-MRSA was most common in nursing homes that had a younger population, the researchers found. This mirrors its activity in the community at large, where it is spread more often in high-contact settings like the military, child care, and sports. Researchers theorize that younger nursing home residents are more mobile and come into contact with more of their fellow patients, spreading the bacteria more efficiently.

MRSA infections, which are resistant to treatment by penicillin-based antibiotics, have accounted for more than 60 percent of hospital staph infections in recent years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 126,000 hospital MRSA infections occur each year, resulting in about 5,000 deaths. However, some researchers suggest that the number of deaths from MRSA in the U.S. is closer to 20,000 annually.


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