CDC: Step Up Prevention of Deadly Staph Infections

March 13, 2019 03:00 pm News Staff

More than 119,000 people suffered from bloodstream infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus in the United States in 2017 -- and nearly 20,000 died.

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That's according to a new CDC Vital Signs report(www.cdc.gov) and accompanying Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)(www.cdc.gov) released on March 5.

The new data reflect incidence trends for both methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) infections.

Collected from the CDC's Emerging Infections Program (EIP) MRSA population surveillance (2005-2016) and from the Premier and Cerner electronic health record (EHR) databases (2012-2017), data showed that from 2005 to 2012, rates of hospital-onset MRSA bloodstream infection decreased by 17.1 percent each year, but this decline slowed from 2013 to 2016.

The CDC noted that community-onset MRSA also declined, but only at a rate of 6.9 percent a year from 2005 to 2016, which the agency said was mostly attributed to the drop in health care-associated infections.

Story Highlights
  • More than 119,000 people suffered from bloodstream infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus in the United States in 2017 -- and nearly 20,000 died.
  • Collected from CDC population surveillance and from electronic health records databases, data showed that from 2005 to 2012, the incidence of hospital-onset methicillin-resistant S. aureus bloodstream infection decreased by 17.1 percent each year, but this decline slowed from 2013 to 2016.
  • The CDC noted that community-onset MRSA also declined, but only at a rate of 6.9 percent a year from 2005 to 2016.

Hospital-onset MSSA, on the other hand, did not significantly change during the period studied, said the MMWR, and the rate of community-onset MSSA infections increased only slightly -- at just 3.9 percent per year from 2012 to 2017.

Although MRSA is often better known, the CDC said its report underscores the fact that all staph infections can be deadly and that health care professionals and administrators should take preventive steps to protect their patients.

Additional Findings

The relative stagnation in the incidence of community-associated staph infections could be tied to the ongoing opioid epidemic, the CDC suggested.

"Emerging evidence suggests a 16-fold risk for invasive MRSA infection among persons who inject drugs; 9.2 percent of invasive MRSA cases in 2016 occurred in persons who inject drugs," the MMWR said, up from 4 percent in 2011. Based on those figures, the report noted, health care professionals should consider injection drug use as a cause in patients who present with recurring staph infections.

Physicians can help decrease staph infections in patients who inject drugs by linking them to drug-addiction treatment services and providing information on safe injection practices, wound care and how to recognize early signs of infection, the agency said in a related press release.(www.cdc.gov)

"Staph infections are a serious threat and can be deadly," said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., in the release. "U.S. hospitals have made significant progress, but this report tells us that all staph infections must remain a prevention priority for health care providers."

Protecting Patients from Staph

The risk for serious staph infection is greatest for inpatients in health care facilities or surgery centers, patients who have medical devices placed in their body, those who inject drugs, and those who come into close contact with someone who has a staph infection, the CDC said.

"To reduce the spread of staph in the community, everyone should keep their hands clean, cover wounds and avoid sharing items that contact skin, like towels, razors and needles," said the release.

Additionally, the agency said health care professionals and facility administrators can protect patients by implementing CDC infection control recommendations, including the use of contact precautions(www.cdc.gov) such as donning gloves and gowns, continually reviewing their facility infection data available from the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network, and considering other interventions if they are not meeting infection reduction goals.

Based on the type of facility, another layer of preventive measures may include screening patients at high risk for infection or decolonization (special bathing or medication that reduces bacteria and other pathogens people may carry and spread) during high-risk periods or for certain types of procedures, the agency said.

"We know infection prevention and control works, but it's not one-size-fits-all," said Athena Kourtis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director for data activities in CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, in the release.

For example, in another MMWR(www.cdc.gov) released in unison with the Vital Signs report, researchers found that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers reduced staph infections by 43 percent between 2005 and 2017 by implementing a multifaceted MRSA prevention program. The program included MRSA screening, use of contact precautions and an increased emphasis on hand hygiene and other infection prevention strategies.

The CDC news release also pointed to the agency's Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative,(www.cdc.gov) which supports academic investigators who are pursuing new ways to protect patients specifically from staph infections. These researchers are studying innovative infection prevention strategies to stop the spread of many other pathogens found in health care facilities, as well.

Finally, the agency said it expects to release additional data on the burden MRSA imposes in its second Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States report, which is scheduled to publish at the end of the year.

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American Family Physician: Practice Guidelines: IDSA Guidelines on the Treatment of MRSA Infections in Adults and Children
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Familydoctor.org: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)(familydoctor.org)