ICU Rooms Help Spread Resistant Infections

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TUESDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Patients in intensive care unit rooms previously occupied by someone with antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be at heightened risk of acquiring these dangerous infections, a U.S. study finds.

Two kinds of bacteria -- methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) -- are major causes of illness and death in hospitals.

The study, by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, included more than 8,200 patients, average age 61, who totaled 11,528 stays at eight ICUs between 2003 and 2005. Of these patients, 809 had MRSA, and 658 had VRE upon admittance to the ICU.

Of the remaining patients, 14 percent stayed in rooms in which the prior occupant had MRSA, and 13 percent stayed in rooms in which the prior occupant had VRE.

These patients were more likely to acquire these bacteria than patients in rooms previously occupied by patients who did not have these bacteria (4.5 percent vs. 2.8 percent for VRE and 3.9 percent vs. 2.9 percent for MSRA).

Reporting in the Oct. 9 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers concluded that this added risk factor accounted for 5.1 percent of all new cases of MRSA and 6.8 percent of all new cases of VRE.

This increase in risk was present even though the hospitals in the study had room-cleaning procedures that exceeded U.S. national guidelines. This suggests that these guidelines do not prevent transmission of disease-causing bacteria, the study authors said.

"Additional data are needed to determine whether more intensive cleaning practices can reduce the risk further and, if so, whether this is worthwhile in a resource-limited system," the authors concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about MRSA (www.nlm.nih.gov ).

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