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US Hospitals Increasingly Colonized by Drug-resistant Germs

Concern is rising in the US over increasing lack of hygiene in hospitals, resulting in a virtual invasion by the drug-resistant staph bacteria, also called the superbugs.

At least 30,000 U.S. hospital patients may be carrying in them the superbugs at any given time, according to a survey released Monday by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

The estimate is about 10 times the rate that some health officials had previously estimated.

Called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, these staph germs can cause skin infections that in rare cases have led to pneumonia, bloodstream infections and a painful, flesh-destroying condition.

Actually, about 25% of people normally carry staph in the nose, mouth, genitals, and anal area. The foot is very prone to pick up bacteria from the floor. The infection often begins with a little cut, which gets infected with bacteria.

These staph infections range from a simple boil to antibiotic-resistant infections to flesh-eating infections. The difference between all these is how deep and how fast the infection spreads, and how treatable it is with antibiotics.

MRSA is hard to treat because the bacteria have developed resistance to the penicillin drug family.

The antibiotic-resistant infections are more common in North America, because of overuse of antibiotics.

Some federal health officials said they had not seen the APICE study and could not comment on its methodology or its prevalence. But they welcomed added attention to the problem.

"This is a welcome piece of information that emphasizes that this is a huge problem in health care facilities, and more needs to done to prevent it," said Dr. John Jernigan, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Past studies have looked at how common the superbug is in specific patient groups, such as emerge
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