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US Hospitals Increasingly Colonized by Drug-resistant Germs

ncy-room patients with skin infections in 11 U.S. cities, dialysis patients or those admitted to intensive care units in a sample of a few hundred teaching hospitals.

It's difficult to compare prevalence estimates from the different studies, experts said, but the new study suggests the superbug is eight to 11 times more common than some other studies have concluded.

The new study was different in that it sampled a larger and more diverse set of health care facilities. It also was more recent than other studies, and it counted cases in which the bacterium was merely present in a patient and not necessarily causing disease.

The infection control professionals' association sent surveys to its more than 11,000 members and asked them to pick one day from Oct. 1 to Nov. 10, 2006, to count cases of the infection. They were to turn in the number of all the patients in their health care facilities who were identified through test results as infected or colonized with the superbug.

The final results represented 1,237 hospitals and nursing homes or roughly 21 percent of U.S. inpatient health care facilities, association officials said.

The researchers concluded that at least 46 out of every 1,000 patients had the bug.

There was a breakdown: About 34 per 1,000 were infected with the superbug, meaning they had skin or blood infections or some other clinical symptom. And 12 per 1,000 were "colonized," meaning they had the bug but no illness.

Most of the patients were identified within 48 hours of hospital admission, which means, the researchers believe, that they didn't have time to become infected to the degree that a test would show it. For that reason, the researchers concluded that about 75 percent of patients walked into the hospitals and nursing homes already carrying the bug.

"They acquired it in a previous stay in health care facility, or out in the community," said Dr. William Jarvis
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