WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) — Hospitalized children who carry a dangerous type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria but show no signs of illness are still at high risk for developing full-blown infections, a new study finds.
The germ — methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — is linked to more than 18,600 deaths a year in the United States.
Johns Hopkins Children’s Center researchers examined the medical records of 3,140 children admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit between 2007 and 2010. Of those children, 153 arrived at the hospital already colonized with MRSA — that is, the germ was living in the nose or on the skin but not causing infection.
Compared to non-carriers, the children who carried MRSA before they arrived at the hospital were nearly six times more likely to develop invasive MRSA infections after discharge and eight times more likely to develop them while still in the hospital.
Invasive MRSA infections are serious infections that affect the whole body, and they can be life-threatening.
Among the children who were MSRA-free when they came to the hospital, 15 acquired MRSA while in intensive care. Seven of those 15 developed serious infections, six of them while still in the hospital.
“Hospitalized children colonized with MRSA have a very real risk for invasive infections, both while in the hospital and once they leave, so mitigating this risk is a serious priority,” lead investigator Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said in a Hopkins news release.
“We need standardized protocols on ways to protect MRSA carriers from developing invasive infections while also minimizing its spread to others. In the meantime, there are certain things healthcare providers can do to protect all patients,” he added.
Measures that help prevent the spread of MRSA include rigorous hand washing by health care providers and isolation of MRSA carriers in private rooms.
Putting a topical antibiotic in the nostrils of MRSA carriers and bathing them with antiseptic solution may also reduce these children’s risk of full-blown infection and transmission to other patients.
The study was published online in the Aug. 30 issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about MRSA.
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