California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Cases of Drug-Resistant Staph Infections on the Rise in U.S., Study Finds

An estimated 94,000 U.S. residents developed invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in 2005, and 19,000 died from such infections, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Chicago Tribune reports.

For the study, CDC researchers led by epidemiologist R. Monina Klevens, in collaboration with researchers nationwide, examined data collected from Baltimore; Connecticut; the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta and Portland, Ore.; and three counties in Minnesota, New York and Tennessee (Graham, Chicago Tribune, 10/17).

The study found 5,287 cases of invasive MRSA infections and 988 related deaths in 2005. Researchers used the results to estimate that about 31.8 per 100,000 residents nationwide developed invasive MRSA infections in 2005 (Stein, Washington Post, 10/17).

In addition, researchers estimated that 66.5 per 100,000 black residents and 127.7 per 100,000 elderly residents nationwide developed invasive MRSA infections in 2005 (Kohn, Baltimore Sun, 10/17).

Researchers said that those populations experienced a higher rate of invasive MRSA infections because of their higher incidence of chronic diseases and subsequent stays in hospitals, where such infections most often occur (Chicago Tribune, 10/17).

Klevens said, "This is an alarming number of infections and a very significant number of deaths." She added, "This is really a call to action for the health care facilities to do a better job of preventing MRSA" (Grant, AP/Houston Chronicle, 10/17). The study, "we hope, will result in better prevention," Klevens said (Ricks, Long Island Newsday, 10/17).


Scott Fridkin, a medical epidemiologist at CDC, said that the study "indicates these life-threatening MRSA infections are much more common than we had thought." He added, "This is a significant public health problem. We should be very worried" (Washington Post, 10/17).

According to Michael Bennet, director of the Coalition for Patients' Rights, "Every hospital, every clinic, every dialysis center should be doing active detection and isolation to identify antibiotic resistant infections" (Baltimore Sun, 10/17).

Nancy Foster, vice president of safety for the American Hospital Association, called the study an "eye-opener" and said the results should prompt hospitals nationwide to examine their efforts to prevent invasive MRSA infections.

William Jarvis, former acting director of the hospital infection program at CDC, said that the agency currently does not "recommend routine screening for all hospital patients for MRSA" (Chicago Tribune, 10/17).

In an editorial that accompanied the study, Elizabeth Bancroft, an epidemiologist at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, wrote that the results are "clearly a very big deal" and "just the tip of the iceberg" because researchers examined only cases of the most serious staph infections (Washington Post, 10/17). The study is available online.

Broadcast Coverage

Three broadcast programs on Tuesday reported on the study. Summaries appear below.

  • CBS' "Evening News": The segment includes comments from Klevens; Judy Tarselli, a hygiene specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital; and a football coach at a high school that experienced a MRSA outbreak (LaPook, "Evening News," CBS, 10/16). Video of the segment and expanded CBS News coverage are available online.
  • NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Vance Fowler of the Duke University School of Medicine; Gregory Moran of the University of California-Los Angeles Medical Center; Ryan Joregensen, a deputy sheriff at the Los Angeles County jail; and a hospital patient who developed MRSA (Bazell, "Nightly News," NBC, 10/16). Video of the segment is available online.
  • NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Bancroft; John Jernigan, a medical epidemiologist at CDC; and Paul Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Knox, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/16). Audio of the segment is available online.
This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.