MRSA prevention efforts pay off

February 17, 2009 4:03:20 PM PST
There is new information about efforts to control a contagious infection among hospital patients. And it looks like those efforts are paying off. MRSA infections are caused by a contagious bacteria. Frequently, the hospitals sickest patients, those in intensive care units, are at high risk. It is a kind of staph infection that's grown resistant to some antibiotics. It is threatening because the tools to cure it are very limited. Most hospitals have been working at preventing the spread of the infection, and some evidence about the success is good.

In hospitals, MRSA can cause serious and costly infections. Unfortunately, devices frequently used in intensive care units can provide MRSA with a direct path into a patient's bloodstream.

Doctors often use catheters inserted into major blood vessels both for treatment and monitoring.

"These catheters are vital for patient care, but they also can represent a potential source for infection of the bloodstream with MRSA and other microorganisms," said Dr. Deron Burton, of the Centers for Disease Control.

"One of the reasons that patients with central nervous catheters are at such high risk for infection is because you're placing a device through the patient's skin into a sterile body space," Dr. John Jernigan said.

Hospitals have been intensifying their efforts to prevent these infections.

But has the effort paid off? The CDC recently analyzed data from more than 600 intensive care units in hospitals around the country over 10 years.

"From 1997 through 2001, in four of the seven major ICU types that we studied, the risk was increasing," Dr. Burton said. "Since 2001, the risk of MRSA bloodstream infections associated with the use of a central line in intensive care units has dramatically declined by roughly 50 to 70 percent in most types of ICUs.

While the study did not look into reasons behind the numbers, researchers found clues that prevention methods may be having an impact.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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