Academic hospitals see more MRSA infections

Infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) doubled at academic hospitals in five years, contrary to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said MRSA cases at hospitals were declining.

Hospital admissions for any MRSA infection went from about 21 out of every 1,000 hospitalized patients in 2003 to about 42 out of every 1,000 in 2008, or roughly 1 in 20 inpatients, according to a study in the August issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

"The rapid increase means that the number of people hospitalized with recorded MRSA infections exceeded the number hospitalized with AIDS and influenza combined in each of the last three years of the survey," study author Michael David, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said in a research announcement earlier this month.

While the CDC study only looked at invasive MRSA, researchers from the University of Chicago Medicine and the University HealthSystem Consortium also included noninvasive community-associated MRSA, which is contracted outside of a healthcare setting. In fact, they credit community-associated MRSA infections with much of the increase.

The study also revealed that hospitals often underreport MRSA cases in billing codes submitted to insurers. For instance, hospitals that have a limited number of billing codes for each patient may end up omitting a MRSA code if it was not one of the primary diagnoses, according the announcement.

Given that MRSA infections are on the rise, academic medical centers should consider board-certified infection prevention programs. A study published in the March American Journal of Infection Control found that hospitals with a board-certified professional have significantly lower rates of MRSA bloodstream infections than those that don't.

To learn more:
- here's the research announcement
- read the study abstract