MRSA infection rate higher than in most EU countries

INFECTION rates from MRSA remain higher in Irish hospitals than most of Europe despite campaigns to promote hand hygiene.

In addition, the levels of antibiotics given to hospital patients continue to increase despite evidence that overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the development of superbugs.

While the number of MRSA bloodstream infections dropped slightly from 572 in 2006 to 526 in 2007, and the rate of infection decreased from 0.15 cases per 1,000 bed days in 2006 to 0.14 in 2007, a report published yesterday said the rate “is still high compared with other EU countries”.

This includes the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden where antibiotic consumption has been actively tackled and where MRSA incidence rates ranged between 0.2 and -0.5 per 100,000 patient bed days in 2006 compared with an incidence rate here of 14.6, according to figures compiled by the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System.

The report, by the Health Service Executive’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre found despite Irish hospital antibiotic consumption being “in the mid-range” compared with other EU countries, “it is considerably higher than that reported by countries with successful national programmes to promote prudent anti-biotic prescribing”.

Fine Gael Seanad health spokeswoman Senator Frances Fitzgerald said the report was evidence of “poor progress in reducing levels of MRSA” and the figures showed “a negligible reduction”.

The report Healthcare-Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance-Related Data from Acute Public Hospitals in Ireland 2006-2007, found the use of alcohol hand rubs had increased by up to 43% - during that period, making the national consumption level “similar to levels reported from successful hand hygiene campaigns internationally”.

The HPSC report gave details on MRSA incidence rates, antibiotic consumption and alcohol hand-rub use in more than 50 acute public hospitals.

However, the report’s authors warn comparisons between hospitals are not possible. In the case of MRSA, the report says variations in bloodstream infections between hospitals “can be explained by differences in hospital size, activity and patient populations”, as well as factors such as inter-hospital transfers, the frequency with which blood cultures are taken and access to laboratory services.


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