A new study in the January issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery reveals a super bacteria known as MRSA is spreading among children, causing a surge in head and neck infections.
MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — is an antibiotic-resistant form of the common staph germ. It has evolved over time to gain an increasing resistance to antibiotics and developed strains tougher to treat.
It can be transmitted by surfaces or by touch. The pathogen enters the body through breaks in the skin and can be fatal if it enters the blood stream.
MRSA previously had been a major concern in hospitals, attacking patients who are already weakened by disease. But, recent outbreaks in the community, in otherwise healthy kids have raised new concerns, said study co-author Dr. Steven E. Sobol, director of the department of pediatric otolaryngology at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta..
For the study, researchers studied 21,000 head and neck infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus from 300 hospitals nationwide over a six-year period. Of these, 28 percent tested positive for MRSA in 2006, compared with 12 percent in 2001.
Nearly one-third of MRSA infections affected the ears, while 28 percent impacted nasal and sinus regions. Head and neck MRSA infections accounted for 14 percent.
Sobol stressed, however, that while it is not cause for panic, there needs to be awareness among pediatricians and parents that this certainly does exist.
Doctors need to conduct careful testing of neck and head infections and prescribe antibiotics only when they will be able to do help, suggests researchers.
The underlying cause for the surge in pediatric infections is the subject of an ongoing study at our institution, because we don’t yet know why it’s occurring, Sobol said. “But we suspect a combination of factors.”
Dr. Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Medical Center, agrees.
“It could be physicians are less cautious of their use of antibiotics in children,” he noted. Although the American Pediatric Association strongly advises doctors to carefully administer antibiotics to children. It could also be, in part, that we’re simply monitoring case trends better than we have in the past and finding a greater number among children.”
But Tierno hypothesizes that MRSA is simply on the rise outside of traditional hospital settings.
An estimated 94,000 Americans get serious, invasive MRSA infections yearly. And 19,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Decline in Superbug Infections in English Hospitals
The number of infections from the superbug, MRSA, in English hospitals has fallen by more than a third over the past year, according to health officials.
Figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) for April to June showed a 14 percent reduction in hospital-acquired MRSA infections in England, compared with the previous quarter. There was also a 36 percent drop on the corresponding quarter of 2007.
The drop in infections follows a drive to “deep clean” all NHS hospitals, with the government funding the project.
The project was repeatedly criticized by contract cleaners, the NHS Confederation and opposition parties but ministers feel they have been proved right.
“The reduction of healthcare associated infections is a challenge around the world,” said HPA’s Professional Peter Borriello.
“The reduction in cases of MRSA bloodstream infections demonstrates the huge efforts being made by NHS staff to tackle these infections.” #