The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 19,000 people died in the U.S. in 2005 after being infected a virulent drug resistant bacterium, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The number of deaths associated with MRSA exceeds those attributed to AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, emphysema, and homicide each year.
Most invasive MRSA infections were associated with health care treatment. In hospitals, the bacteria can be transported from patient to patient by doctors, nurses, and unsterilized equipment. In addition, busy hospital workers often disregard basic standards of hand-washing. Some hospitals have reduced infection rates by isolating infected patients and requiring workers to wear gloves and gowns for every contact.
First isolated in the U.S. in 1968, MRSA causes 10% to 20% of all infections acquired in health care settings. The bacteria are resistant to several front-line antibiotics and can cause infections of a surgical site, in the urinary tract, and in the lungs. These opportunistic bacteria can be brought unknowingly into hospitals and nursing homes by asymptomatic patients, and they can enter the bloodstream through incisions and wounds.
They can then overwhelm a weakened immune system.
The new study found higher prevalence and death rates for the elderly, African-Americans, and men.
(Sources: JAMA and The New York Times, October 16, 2007.)