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Universal Screening for MRSA in Hospitals Made Little Difference
Date:3/11/2008

Swiss study found standard infection control was just as effective

TUESDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- Universal screening for a common antibiotic-resistant bacteria is no better than standard infection control at reducing the rate of hospital-acquired infections in surgical patients, new Swiss research shows.

The bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), is an increasing public health concern.

But there is still hope, said study author Dr. Stephan Harbarth, attending physician in infectious diseases and associate hospital epidemiologist at University of Geneva Hospitals and Medical School in Geneva, noting that there has been an "unprecedented" decline of MRSA rates in several European countries and a stable, relatively low rate in others.

"Clearly, these recent findings suggest that MRSA spread can be curbed in hospitals, provided that active control programs are implemented," he continued. "For instance, following the introduction of specific programs for limiting cross-transmission, first at regional level and subsequently at national level, MRSA infection rates decreased by almost 50 percent between 1993 and 2006 in hospitals of the Paris region, and by 20 percent since 2001 in more than 50 hospitals across France."

Still, Harbarth cautioned, "this needs strong public health action, something not to be expected under the current federal administration of the U.S."

The findings are in the March 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hospital-acquired and community-acquired MRSA infections have become a major public health challenge. The bacterium can lead to skin and blood infections and pneumonia.

According to a related editorial in the same issue of the journal, one-quarter of U.S. hospitals reported at least one MRSA outbreak in the prior year. And an estimated 18,000 or more deaths could be attributable to i
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