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Health Team

Study Finds Drug-Resistant Germ Too Prevalent in Health-Care Settings

Posted October 16, 2007 3:27 p.m. EDT
Updated October 16, 2007 8:42 p.m. EDT

— Every 30 minutes in this country, someone dies from a serious form of an infection called MRSA. A study released Tuesday found that MRSA most often spreads through hospital or other health-care visits.

Staphylococcus bacteria generally live on the skin, but they can get into the blood through things like intravenous lines used to deliver fluids and medicines to people.

“The staff germ can follow the IV line into the blood stream and gain easy access and make a person quite ill,” Dr. Susan Ray of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta said.

That can lead to MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

The study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says that serious forms of these infections are all too common in the U.S.

There were “over 94,000 infections and about 18,650 deaths in one year alone, in 2005,” said Dr. R. Monina Klevens of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose headquarters is in Atlanta.

CDC researchers, along with others across the country, studied thousands of MRSA infections. They found that in about 27 percent of the cases, people were infected while they were patients in a hospital.

The study found that 14 percent contracted the infection in the community, and about 58 percent got the infection after a health-care visit, such as dialysis or surgery.

“That's not to say that health care is not safe, but rather that health care has its risks,” the CDC’s Klevens said:

Klevens said the benefits still outweigh the risks, but more can and should be done to prevent MRSA infections in health-care settings.

Guidelines that the CDC published last year outline ways to do it. They include something both health-care providers and patients can do – keep their hands very clean.

The medical professionals who wrote the study emphasized that 18,000 people with MRSA infections died in 2005, but that does not mean all of them died because they had MRSA. The deaths were called MRSA-related.