Because I've been so behind, there's so much to cover! So let's dive in:
In today's Archives of Surgery, researchers from Seattle's Harborview Medical Center report that one simple addition to the routine of caring for trauma patients made a significant difference to the patients' likelihood of acquiring a hospital-associated infection: bathing them once a day with the antiseptic chlorhexidine (in an impregnated wipe). Patients who were bathed with the antiseptic wipe, compared with patients wiped down with an inert solution, had one-fourth the likelihood of developing a catheter-related bloodstream infection and one-third the likelihood of ventilator-associated MRSA pneumonia. Cite: Evans HL et al. Effect of Chlorhexidine Whole-Body Bathing on Hospital-Acquired Infections Among Trauma Patients. Arch Surg. 2010;145(3):240-246.
How important are hospital-acquired infections? Here's a piece of research from a few weeks ago that I sadly failed to blog at the time: Just two categories of HAIs, sepsis and pneumonia, account for 48,000 deaths and $8.1 billion in health care costs in a single year. Writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers from the nonprofit project Extending the Cure analyzed 69 million hospital-discharge records issued in 40 states between 1998 and 2006. Hospital charges and number of days that patients had to stay in the hospital were 40% higher because of those infections, many of which are caused by MRSA — and all of which are completely preventable. Cite: Eber, MR et al. Clinical and Economic Outcomes Attributable to Health care-Associated Sepsis and Pneumonia. Arch Intern Med. 2010; 170(4): 347-53.
What else could reduce the rate of MRSA infections? How about Vitamin D? South Carolina scientists analyze data from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004), a massive database overseen by the CDC, and find an association between low blood levels of Vit. D and the likelihood of MRSA colonization. More than 28% of the population is Vitamin D deficient. MRSA colonization is increasing in the US. Can giving Vit. D decrease MRSA carriage? More research needed. Cite: Matheson EM et al. Vitamin D and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus nasal carriage. Scand J Infect Dis. 2010 Mar 8. [Epub ahead of print]
And finally: Who else carries MRSA? Some unlucky pet owners have found that animals can harbor human strains, long enough at least to pass the strain back to a human whose colonization has been cleared. So it makes sense to ask whether humans who spend time with pets are carrying the bug. Last month's Veterinary Surgery reports that the answer is Yes. Veterinarians are carrying MRSA in very significant numbers: 17% of vets and 18% of vet technicians at an international veterinary symposium held in San Diego in 2008. Cite: Burstiner, LC et al. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Colonization in Personnel Attending a Veterinary Surgery Conference. Vet Surg. 2010 Feb;39(2):150-7.