Staph infections carry long-term risks

Jul 03, 2008

Patients who harbor the highly contagious bacterium causing staph infections can develop serious and sometimes deadly symptoms a year or longer after initial detection, a UC Irvine infectious disease researcher has found.

A study led by Dr. Susan Huang shows that almost one-quarter of the patients who acquire the antibiotic-resistant bacterium MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) developed staph infections at least a year after initial detection. The infections included pneumonia and blood diseases, some of which were linked to deaths.

The most serious staph infections begin in hospitals or other healthcare settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. The study is the first to show such long-term risk of these infections and point to the need for new treatment approaches. Results appear in the July 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“Since infection risk remains substantial among long-term carriers of MRSA, these patients should be targeted for interventions along with patients who newly acquire MRSA,” said Huang, the epidemiology and infection prevention director at UC Irvine Medical Center.

Huang and Rupak Datta from Harvard Medical School followed 281 patients who had been MRSA-positive for anywhere from one to four years. Twenty-four percent developed invasive disease in the follow-up year, with pneumonia being the most common infection. MRSA was identified as a contributor to the deaths of 14 patients.

Staph infections can cause life-threatening skin infections, as well as infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, heart valves and lungs. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk, although staph infections regularly occur in otherwise healthy people who are hospitalized.

MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics, but can be treated with vancomycin. Published studies show that approximately 2 percent of persons in the community and up to 5 percent to 8 percent of hospitalized patients harbor MRSA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that patients with MRSA be placed in single rooms and that medical staff wear gowns and gloves while caring for them to prevent spreading MRSA among patients.

“The severity of illness associated with MRSA in hospitalized patients urges us to identify the best way to reduce risks of infection,” Huang said. “Active research is ongoing to determine the safest and most effective intervention for different types of patients. Options include various antibiotic treatments, bathing agents and a hope for an effective vaccine.”

An assistant professor of medicine, Huang was an infectious diseases physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School when the study was conducted. She joined UC Irvine in 2007.

Source: University of California, Irvine

Explore further: US official warns Ebola outbreak will get worse

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UN panel: Global warming human-caused, dangerous

38 minutes ago

A new international draft report says global warming is here, human-caused and can already be considered dangerous. The report warns that it is increasingly likely that climate change could be irreversible.

TRMM and Aqua satellites gaze into Hurricane Cristobal

41 minutes ago

NASA's TRMM and Aqua satellites have been providing views of the outside and inside of Hurricane Cristobal as it heads for Bermuda. The National Hurricane Center posted a Tropical Storm Watch for Bermuda ...

Satellite shows Hurricane Marie about to swallow Karina

41 minutes ago

Massive Hurricane Marie appears like a giant fish about to swallow tiny Tropical Depression Karina on satellite imagery today from NOAA's GOES-West satellite. Karina, now a tropical depression is being swept ...

NASA sees huge Hurricane Marie slam Socorro Island

42 minutes ago

NASA's Terra satellite passed over Hurricane Marie when its eye was just to the west of Socorro Island in the Eastern Pacific. Marie's eye may have been near the island, but the storm extended several hundreds ...

Recommended for you

Girls in Colombian town struck by mystery illness

3 hours ago

A mystery illness has overwhelmed a small town in northern Colombia as scores of teenage girls have been hospitalized with symptoms that parents fear could be an adverse reaction to a popular vaccine against cervical cancer.

Oral contraceptive equal to antibiotics for acne care

10 hours ago

(HealthDay)—At six months, oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are comparable to systemic antibiotics for acne management, according to a review published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Ac ...

Photodynamic therapy vs. cryotherapy for actinic keratoses

12 hours ago

Photodynamic therapy (PDT, which uses topical agents and light to kill tissue) appears to better clear actinic keratoses (AKs, a common skin lesion caused by sun damage) at three months after treatment than cryotherapy (which ...

US official warns Ebola outbreak will get worse

13 hours ago

A third top doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday, as a leading American health official warned that the outbreak sweeping West Africa would get worse before it ...

User comments : 0