Decline in Staph Infections Among Vets

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MRSA infection rate and spread of bacterium on the decline since 2007 initiative

November 11, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Staph infections are often serious and sometimes difficult conditions to treat. But the number of new cases and spread of this disease caused by a bacterium that does not respond to standard kinds of medicine have been declining among military veterans.

A recent study found that the spread of a certain staph bacterium that causes serious infections has declined among patients seeking care at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.

While the bacterium is resistant to many antibiotic treatments, the number of new infectious cases has also gone down.

The decline in infections might be a result of a 2007 nationwide drive to reduce the number of infections. And according to authors of this study, the findings show that healthcare workers continue to be engaged with the initiative.

"Watch for boils, rashes and pimples that are swollen and painful."

Martin Evans, MD, from the VA Central Office and the Lexington VA Medical Center in Kentucky, led this study that looked at the rate of infections caused by a specific staph bacterium among veterans who sought care in VA acute care facilities across the country.

The researchers tracked infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) five years after implementing a nationwide initiative in 2007 to reduce the number of infections.

MRSA is a bacterium that is resistant to, or cannot be treated by, many first line antibiotics. The bacterium can cause life-threatening infections, surgical infections and pneumonia in medical facilities.

The researchers counted the number of infections that started between October 2007 and June 2010, and from July 2010 to June 2012.

The rate of transmission, or spread, of the bacterium declined 17 percent in intensive care units (ICUs) and 21 percent in non-ICUs, according to the researchers. The rate of transmission was calculated by looking at the number of days patients were infected out of 1,000 total days that patients spent in the hospital.

For intensive care units (ICU) and non-ICU units together, the monthly rate of transmission declined 12.1 percent from 2.31 patient days to 2.03 patients days per 1,000 patient days.

The researchers also found that the total number of actual infections caused by MRSA at healthcare facilities declined 62 percent in ICUs and 45 percent in non-ICUs by the end of the study period.

The rate of healthcare-associated infections in both ICUs and non-ICUs also declined 36.4 percent on average.

The healthcare-associated infection rate decreased 44.8 percent in non-ICUs, but did not significantly decline in the ICUs.

“[…] Recent declines in MRSA health-care associated infection rates in the United States have been reported by others but differences in methods, populations evaluated and absence of information about infection control activities make it difficult to determine the relevance of these data to the VA experience,” the researchers wrote in their report.

The study was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. The authors did not have any conflicts of interest to report.

Review Date: 
November 10, 2013
Last Updated:
November 12, 2013