Family members of children with a staph infection often harbor a drug-resistant form of the germ, although they don't show symptoms, a team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found.
The results are published in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The investigators focused on family members of nearly 200 children who had Staphylococcus aureus infections in the skin and soft tissue, in areas such as the nose, armpits and/or groin. They found that of the more than 600 household members who lived with the children, more than half were colonized with S aureus. An additional 21 percent harbored MRSA, a difficult-to-treat form of staph that is resistant to common antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin.
Outbreaks of S aureus can occur in households from close contact with another person who is infected or from sharing common household items, such as a bath towel or razor, even if the infected family member doesn't show symptoms.
While up to 30 percent of people nationwide carry the S aureus germ in their nose without symptoms, less than 2 percent are colonized with MRSA, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The rate of MRSA we found in household members of these patients is higher than rates of the colonization in the community," says Stephanie A. Fritz, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics who treats children with infectious diseases at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Previously published national rates show 0.8 percent-1.5 percent for MRSA colonization in the community.
The study included 183 patients, ages 6 months to 20 years, with community-onset S aureus skin and soft tissue infections and their parents, siblings and other household contacts who spent more than half of their time each week in the primary home of the patient. The patients were evaluated at St. Louis Children's Hospital Emergency Department and ambulatory wound center, as well as from nine community pediatric practices affiliated with the Washington University Pediatric and Adolescent Ambulatory Research Consortium.