Staph infections carry long-term risks

July 3, 2008

Patients who harbor the highly contagious bacterium causing staph infections can develop serious and sometimes deadly symptoms a year or longer after initial detection, a UC Irvine infectious disease researcher has found.

A study led by Dr. Susan Huang shows that almost one-quarter of the patients who acquire the antibiotic-resistant bacterium MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) developed staph infections at least a year after initial detection. The infections included pneumonia and blood diseases, some of which were linked to deaths.

The most serious staph infections begin in hospitals or other healthcare settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. The study is the first to show such long-term risk of these infections and point to the need for new treatment approaches. Results appear in the July 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“Since infection risk remains substantial among long-term carriers of MRSA, these patients should be targeted for interventions along with patients who newly acquire MRSA,” said Huang, the epidemiology and infection prevention director at UC Irvine Medical Center.

Huang and Rupak Datta from Harvard Medical School followed 281 patients who had been MRSA-positive for anywhere from one to four years. Twenty-four percent developed invasive disease in the follow-up year, with pneumonia being the most common infection. MRSA was identified as a contributor to the deaths of 14 patients.

Staph infections can cause life-threatening skin infections, as well as infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, heart valves and lungs. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk, although staph infections regularly occur in otherwise healthy people who are hospitalized.

MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics, but can be treated with vancomycin. Published studies show that approximately 2 percent of persons in the community and up to 5 percent to 8 percent of hospitalized patients harbor MRSA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that patients with MRSA be placed in single rooms and that medical staff wear gowns and gloves while caring for them to prevent spreading MRSA among patients.

“The severity of illness associated with MRSA in hospitalized patients urges us to identify the best way to reduce risks of infection,” Huang said. “Active research is ongoing to determine the safest and most effective intervention for different types of patients. Options include various antibiotic treatments, bathing agents and a hope for an effective vaccine.”

An assistant professor of medicine, Huang was an infectious diseases physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School when the study was conducted. She joined UC Irvine in 2007.

Source: University of California, Irvine

Explore further: Antibiotics warranted for kids with minor staph infections

Related Stories

Antibiotics warranted for kids with minor staph infections

September 26, 2017
The overuse of antibiotics has left some doctors questioning whether to give such drugs to children diagnosed with uncomplicated staph infections. Such infections often occur on the skin and look like a pus-filled bug bite.

Investigators may unlock mystery of how staph cells dodge the body's immune system

September 21, 2017
For years, medical investigators have tried and failed to develop vaccines for a type of staph bacteria associated with the deadly superbug MRSA. But a new study by Cedars-Sinai investigators shows how staph cells evade the ...

Rapamycin treatment prevents crippling abnormal bone formation after severe limb injuries

October 11, 2017
Individuals who experience severe injuries to their extremities, whether due to military combat or other trauma, often develop abnormal extra-skeletal bone in the damaged or healing tissue, a process known as heterotopic ...

MRSA survival chances predicted by DNA sequencing the superbug

August 7, 2017
Sequencing the DNA of the MRSA superbug can accurately identify patients most at risk of death and could help medics develop new treatments as we move towards personalised medicine, say scientists publishing in the journal ...

'Superbug' bacteria gang up on us, fueled by antibiotic use, nursing home study suggests

September 12, 2017
What's worse than getting exposed to a kind of bacteria that modern antibiotics can't kill? Getting exposed to more than one - because they may work together to cause an infection, new research suggests.

Study shows nurses' scrubs become contaminated with bacteria in hospitals

August 29, 2017
Clothing worn by healthcare providers can become contaminated with bacteria, however having nurses wear scrubs with antimicrobial properties did not prevent this bacterial contamination from occurring, according to a study ...

Recommended for you

Exploring how herpes simplex virus changes when passed between family members

October 22, 2017
A new study explores how herpes simplex virus might change when passed from one individual to another, information that may prove useful in future development of therapeutics and vaccines. This rare glimpse into a transmission ...

Pneumonia vaccine under development provides 'most comprehensive coverage' to date, alleviates antimicrobial concerns

October 20, 2017
In 2004, pneumonia killed more than 2 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. By 2015, the number was less than 1 million.

Newly discovered viral marker could help predict flu severity in infected patients

October 20, 2017
Flu viruses contain defective genetic material that may activate the immune system in infected patients, and new research published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that lower levels of these molecules could increase flu severity.

H7N9 influenza is both lethal and transmissible in animal model for flu

October 19, 2017
In 2013, an influenza virus that had never before been detected began circulating among poultry in China. It caused several waves of human infection and in late 2016, the number of people to become sick from the H7N9 virus ...

Flu simulations suggest pandemics more likely in spring, early summer

October 19, 2017
New statistical simulations suggest that Northern Hemisphere flu pandemics are most likely to emerge in late spring or early summer at the tail end of the normal flu season, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational ...

New insights into herpes virus could inform vaccine development

October 18, 2017
A team of scientists has discovered new insights into the mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, as well as two antibodies that block the virus' entry into cells. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.